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The Q&A

Artists under Lockdown: Akiko Hirai

A potter in London.

By TDE Editorial Team / 28th April 2020
Akiko Hirai COURTESY: Akiko Hirai

Akiko Hirai
COURTESY: Akiko Hirai

The Design Edit (TDE): How are you keeping busy in self-isolation?
AH:
My life hasn’t changed that much. Before the lockdown there was the cancellation of Ceramic Art London; up until that point I had been working very hard, but then I just lost motivation. There was a lot of unfinished work. Once people started to talk about the lockdown I focused on shopping for essentials I couldn’t bring myself to work in the usual way, so instead I tidied up my workshop. Then, when the lockdown did come, I self-isolated in my studio. I run to the studio and then I run back home. I try to take an hour in the morning, and then it is a quick fifteen minute sprint home. There is a courtyard in my studio so I can at least work and take the air. What is hard is the motivation. I wasn’t sure if orders were still live. I had shows lined up at the New Craftsman Gallery in St Ives in May, and at Flow Gallery in London in June. But as it has turned out they still need the work, whether the shows end up being online or live, and I can still dispatch. So I am now very busy because I have to make up for two weeks of lost work!

Akiko Hirai, 'Teapot', 2019 COURTESY: Akiko Hirai

Akiko Hirai, ‘Teapot’, 2019
COURTESY: Akiko Hirai

TDE: Everyone’s pace of life has slowed down considerably; what is the impact of this new rhythm on your work and home life?
AH:
I have not been as productive as before. However, I am really appreciating the time at home. My husband, who is a weaver, lives in Suffolk, next door to his elderly mother, who is vulnerable, and generally we commute between each other’s house every month. Since the lockdown, we both decided not to travel. We have to Skype. I don’t enjoy not being able to see him, but luckily I do have enough work to occupy me. The real test would be if I could not get to the studio. That is why I am strict about hand washing, social distancing and not shopping. I am really grateful that I have orders and commissions still coming in. I think the customers are willing to buy because they want to support craft.

Akiko Hirai, 'Sake Bottles', 2019 COURTESY: Akiko Hirai

Akiko Hirai, ‘Sake Bottles’, 2019
COURTESY: Akiko Hirai

TDE: Do you have a favourite self-isolation recipe to share with us – either for a meal, or a psychological recipe?  
AH: I try to keep to my useful routine. I do a Zoom yoga class – it’s really nice. There are 8- 10 of us on one screen. At first none of us was used to it, but people quickly adjust, and it is good to continue activities from before lockdown. It is also important to have physical exercise outside at some point in the day, to get the sun, and to maintain a good quality of life. I have more food at home than usual and I’m taking more time to cook – things like broccoli with homemade dressing – it’s too warm for casseroles. We all need to build up our immune systems.

TDE: What is saving your sanity under lockdown?
AH:
I need to work to stay sane. I have lost my studio assistant, so I also have to do all the other jobs like cleaning the studio and all the paperwork.

Akiko Hirai's studio with vessels COURTESY: Akiko Hirai

Akiko Hirai’s studio with vessels
COURTESY: Akiko Hirai

TDE: Which online exhibition/gallery viewing room, or other internet offerings have caught your eye?
AH:
I am not on Facebook or Instagram, but my husband told me about the videos on YouTube from Goldmark Gallery, like the film about Svend Bayer, which I enjoyed.

Akiko Hirai Ceramics – using Japanese pottery techniques to create contemporary ceramics.

Available from Flow Gallery: flowgallery.co.uk

Svend Bayer film

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