Welcome to our ‘spiral market selection’ interview series, where we look at living from the viewpoint of artists and creators engaged in craftsmanship for daily life. In our twenty-first interview, we spoke with Hinako Hirano, whose beautiful ceramics draw you in with their deep, richly toned glazes.
──Creating in Tajimi
I have been working ever since I graduated from the junior college of a fine arts university – that’s more than 20 years ago. My first job after graduation was part-time at a ceramics school. But I wanted to pursue ceramics in a more professional way so I studied at a studio run by Tajimi City in Gifu Prefecture. There were so many artisans making all kinds of fascinating things. I loved it so much I never left! Here I am surrounded by people extremely knowledgeable about clay and pottery, and I can tap into them when I want to test out something new in my work. They even share small amounts of materials that I can sample. It’s great.
I’ve always loved eating so it seemed only natural to make tableware. I use my ceramic creations for meals in my own home, making minor adjustments as I go. I also make accessories and I find that I can use pretty-coloured glazes from that work in my tableware too. It almost looks like the colours of foods have soaked into the dish. With the freedom to choose shapes too, it’s really a lot of fun.
──In dialogue with my glazes
I formulate my own glazes, but there are so many challenges into doing it, like determining depth of colour or the best application method based on the thickness of a piece. Depending on the temperature in the kiln, glazes can run too much or sometimes not even melt at all. The tiniest thing can have a big impact. Sometimes I even layer two different types of glaze, but it’s really hard because the degree of shrinkage varies by type. I have to change the clay I use based on the choice of glaze colour, and the outcome is also affected by how fine or coarse the grain of the clay is. I love staring at the tiny differences in glazes – if they have a shiny or unusually matte finish. It’s those variations that I incorporate into my creations subconsciously.
It would be great to be able to create at the same time every day, but I usually work afternoons in the winter and mornings in summer. It’s so cold in winter that the water in my studio freezes and the clay gets so cold that my hands ache. It’s impossible to start work until the sun has started to warm the room. That’s why I love it when spring arrives.
Looking at details on small objects has always fascinated me. I can sit and observe ever so still. Once on a summer’s day a moth stopped for a rest on my screen door. My friend was scared but I found it so beautiful that I sketched it for ages. I also love hiking or even short walks. Whenever I have time, I make sure to stop and observe things.
I have lots of my favorite photos on my studio walls – leaves on trees or pictures of water. When I think about it, they resemble the colours in my pieces. It makes me aware of the colour schemes I like.
──Realizations from daily life
I always want to know how my pieces are being used in people’s daily lives. There’s the first impression people get when they see my pieces in store and there's also the feeling of actually using them. I always hope there’s more to the experience than just the first impression. As long as it doesn’t break, tableware lasts forever. As I create, I’m thinking about people using items for a long time. Chic-looking items are great but I want to focus on making dishes that you reach for every day – the ones that sit on the top of the stack.
Right now I’m interested in the spaces we create when we come together with others. Many of my pieces are born from ideas of items I’d like in my life, but new perspectives lead to new ideas and I think that makes everything more interesting.