Reiko Kaneko on British Ceramics Biennial, 2017
Ceramicist Reiko Kaneko studied at Central St. Martins, and now designs fine bone china in elegant, functional shapes – from beautifully thin and light glassware and terracotta to pure white china, dipped in rich glazes to produce unique studio pieces. We worked with her at our second pop-up gallery, 10a Thurloe Place.
Kaneko spent her childhood in Japan and still makes frequent visits. Japan has not only been an inspiration for the elegant simplicity to which she strives, but the key to her appreciation of craft and craftsmanship. Reiko has collaborated with makers in different materials both in England and in Japan and is right behind the recent renaissance in regional heritage and craft hubs. She lives and works in Stoke-on-Trent.
"I moved up to Stoke-on-Trent from London to establish a studio here, and to be closer to the ceramic cluster."
What’s your connection to Stoke-on-Trent?
I moved up to Stoke-on-Trent from London to establish a studio here, and to be closer to the ceramic cluster. I wanted to learn from the makers and specialists from the centre of ceramics in England.
What are you looking out for at the British Ceramics Biennial?
I always look forward to BCB - just to soak up the atmosphere of the whole event, to see the work in this crumbling (as well as historical and beautiful) setting. But I always look forward to, and enjoy the architecture talk - there's such inspiring speakers with new ways of working with ceramics within an architectural setting.
Do you have a favourite stand?
I always find the FRESH stand wonderful: young and budding ceramicists coming through with experimental and interesting work. There's sadly very few ceramic courses left at BA level, and the exposure is wonderful for those who are chosen to exhibit there.
"I always find the FRESH stand wonderful: young and budding ceramicists coming through with experimental and interesting work."
What are you working on now?
It's mostly consultancy work at the moment - teaware sets for a restaurant, and some more furniture. But in my own work, I'm continuing to work on some projects I exhibited at London Design Week, like Balancing Act where I use the glaze as glue to create suspended vessels.
Tell us about your first visit to the city.
It was a very stormy day and took 6 hours, in the campervan I used to own, from London. We arrived too late to see the makers I was working with, and pretty much came straight back! Not the best first impression - but, every time I came up, I spent more and more time just chatting and getting to know the crafts-people of the area. They were very generous with their time, thinking back.
Why did you decide to set up your studio here?
It was initially to learn more about ceramics, as I never had any formal training. I wanted to get the kind of advice you only get from face-to-face contact, the knowledge from these specialists of glaze, casters, clay, kiln firings... the list goes on. There are always issues that crop up in every stage of making and it's been invaluable to be here and solve problems together.
I spent more and more time just chatting and getting to know the crafts-people of the area. They were very generous with their time, thinking back.
"Staffordshire Oatcakes - you must get your hands on these."
What makes it a special place?
You can sense the deep history of ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent. 'The Potteries', as is affectionately known, is in the blood - everyone you speak to here would have had one family member who worked in the Pot Banks (pottery factories).
Fine bone china is inherently an English material and Stoke was at the centre of producing the finest bone china in the world. Spode was the first to refine and market this material and the factory is where BCB is based now, so essentially, it's at the centre of it all.
Where should visitors to the city head first?
BCB is really worth making a trip for. Otherwise, I would recommend the Middleport pottery factory tour, Emma Bridgewater's decorating workshop, going by the Pottery Museum in Hanley (there's a cluster of small businesses around the museum too), a coffee shop called 'tsp.', Klay Pizzeria and BottleCraft, which is a craft beer shop. All in all, a young, local crowd are coming through with the finest. Make sure you try mac n' cheese pizza at Klay - sounds horrible, but it's delicious.
Any hidden gems?
Staffordshire Oatcakes - you must get your hands on these.
Give us your best anecdote from your time in Stoke-on-Trent.
The new language I had to get used to! 'Alright duck': you're a duck wherever you go, petrol station, shops, doctors... it's such a nice term of affection. You're nesh (you feel the cold). Dinner time means lunch time....