Reiko Kaneko is challenging the stuffy traditions of fine bone china with her witty, original designs. A Central St Martins graduate, she set up shop in London’s East End in 2007, but has recently moved her studio to Stoke-on-Trent, the home of British pottery. ACHICA Living talks doodles, hot baths and how a smile when someone gets her sense of humour makes it all worthwhile.
You’re British-Japanese – how do those two cultures influence your work? Do they provide contrasting influences or complement each other?
Both cultures have influenced me, and therefore my work. I like to think that they’re complementary, but perhaps the influences are split now that I think about it. A very British kind of humour and wit is perhaps more evident in ranges like the Drip and Lip Tease and more origami like influences in products like the Boat or Petal plates. I guess the Japanese sensibilities to subtleness and form do exist there.
What inspires you?
I owe my art school training a lot in opening my eyes and being excited by possibilities. I still try to be that amazed, by keeping notes and always having my sketch book to hand.
…and what do you do to overcome a creative block?
The only way for me to overcome a creative block is a bath and very late nights. Ideas come to me more easily in the quiet of the night.
What prompted the move to Stoke and what effect do you hope it will have on your work?
It seemed a natural choice – I’m closer to production here and I enjoy the working relationship I have with people who make my designs a reality. For one thing, it creates a much better environment for product development and introducing new collections. It’s just one small step to a much bigger plan. Watch this space!
What’s process do you go through when you’re designing?
It always starts off as a doodle and if it survives my other distractions, I draw it up on the computer to see if it can look as good as I see it in my head.
Usually it takes a lot more development, twists and turns and to make it a manufacture-able reality – input from the makers is an essential process. They use their experience to suggest ways of giving it a better chance of not collapsing in the kiln. Usually, the shapes with my sharp-ish corners are strong enough not to collapse but other times, it takes a lot more changes and support to make it right.
Some pieces can be in development for up to two years before they see the light of day.
Which is your favourite of your products included in the ACHICA promotion and why?
My current favourites are the Petal bowls as they feel great to hold or the Arctic jug with its origami-like spout.
How do you hope your products will make people feel when they use them?
The communication between me, as a designer, and the person using the product is what makes this job worthwhile – whether it’s a smile when they get my sense of humour or the quiet satisfaction, of how the piece feels in their hand.
What’s your favourite part of the process?
I love working with like-minded creative people in different fields – whether it’s chefs, illustrators or mixologists. I find them very inspiring as they’re searching for things that make the experience of the drink or food better… anything that gets me fired up and babbling away excitedly.
The other part of my job I love is having the first sample of the design I’ve been working on in my hand – there’s a smile there that runs deep.
How do you relax?
Yoga and Kyudo usually.
What’s your favourite way to spend a weekend?
Being around my favourite people and cooking.
Finally, what’s your favourite colour?!
White, if that counts. Otherwise, turquoise!
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