The teacup is a much esteemed and venerated object in Japan. Yet potters who make such works are often humble in their approach. Akiko Hirai is such a potter. In a unique collaboration with TOAST Akiko has created this small collection of yunomi-chawan, based on those made for the Sen-Cha tea ceremony.
The design of these teacups is inspired by nature – in particular the photographic work of Karl Blossfeldt and his depictions of seedpods. The technique Akiko has used is ‘kohiki’ – a traditional technique, originating in Japan, which literally means ‘powder blown’ – referring to how the cups themselves appear to be wearing white make-up.
In making these yunomi-chawan Akiko has experimented with the materials and techniques of kohiki to develop her own version. Colours differ due to the natural pigment of the slips and the soft, shadowy tones are a result of the reduction firing – a less predictable process resulting in irregularities and variations. Akiko welcomes such liveliness and spontaneity in her results – likening her pieces to the seeds themselves. In this way, no two are alike and each piece unique.
Each yunomi-chawan is wrapped in pure linen and has its own kirihako – a little, Japanese wooden box made from paulownia wood (kiri). Traditionally paulownia trees would be planted to mark the birth of a girl and cut down upon her marriage to make a beautiful piece of furniture – a wedding gift. A hand written poem, from Akiko herself, is tucked within the cup.
The bowls and tea set, including a dobin teapot with a handle fashioned from the vine of Akebi, and five yunomi, are from Akiko’s permanent collection. These have been made using the same kohiki technique and are inspired by the curving textures of Kamakura-bori – the old folk craft of wood carving based in Kamakura, Japan. To achieve this result Akiko has carved into the clay.
Visit our Marylebone store to see this small collection of pottery. Prices start at £96.
Words by Emily Mears