Togei (Pottery) - Ayako Hayashi
Kneading, molding, and baking are simple steps used to craft pottery. But to establish a successful business, potters must choose to either mass-produce their craft or sell one-of-a-kind artwork that expresses their creativity. It has been 11 years since Ayako Hayashi jumped into the world of pottery. She is the daughter of Nobuhiro Hayashi, the founder of Kouwa-yaki pottery that is crafted from Koiwa clay found in Edogawa City. Being the perfect balance of mass-production and one-of-a-kind artwork, there are a growing number of customers who truly appreciate her pottery.
I'm assuming that there aren't many two-generation potters Tokyo.
"I get that a lot. Because Tokyo is not renowned for its pottery, I doubt there are many two-generation potters who work together to make a living. Because our shop and studio are adjacent to one another, we have the opportunity to observe our customer's responses and incorporate their response into our pottery."
Did you want to become a potter since you were a little child?
"No, not at all. I was actually embarrassed when I was a teenager to tell my friends that my father was a potter. They would tease me by asking, 'Does your father wear work clothes at home?'"
When did you change the way you think?
"I entered a vocational college's architecture department because I wanted to work to provide people with clothing, shelter, and food. After graduation, I worked at a university's facility department for five years. But I started feeling a strong desire to use my hands to create something and design items that makes a positive impact on someone's life. After thinking long and hard, I told my father that I wanted to become a potter."
How did he respond to that?
"He casually said, "Sounds good", and gave me an electric kiln. But he didn't teach me how to use it. My father told me that I should discover my own method because he and I have different shaped hands. Perhaps his noninterfering style was good for me. It inspired me to become a professional potter, set the goal of being able to make a living as a full-time potter within five years, and in 2005 I founded my own brand, nicorico. I was very fortunate that a gallery in Nishi-Ogikubo saw my earlier work that I posted on my website and offered that I hold a solo exhibit at their gallery. Being able to hold my first solo exhibit after six months of starting pottery bolstered my confidence. I have gained a lot of experience over the past eight years since I quit my job to focus on pottery."
What does your brand name mean?
"Nikoriko is coined by combining Nikoniko, which is the description of appearance of someone smiling, with Riko, which is another reading of my name. Most potters use their own name or location of their kiln to brand their pottery, but I wanted to create a more fashionable sounding brand that implied bringing joy to people's lives."
What do you think is important for crafting items?
"I want to incorporate elements from my favorite fashion accessories and clothing into my father's serious attitude towards pottery. Crafting one-of-a-kind artwork drives up the price of pottery. I wanted to, therefore, craft pottery that is between mass production and one-of-a-kind artwork. After carefully considering how to achieve this, I decided to design multiple series of pottery based on similar patterns and shapes. Although all my pottery is handmade and one-of-a-kind, having a series of pottery makes it easier to reproduce pottery on demand."
It is fairly common in Northern Europe to find series of handmade household items, but it's rather rare in Japan.
"I craft items that I perceive to be nice. I then make a collection of these items and display them at solo exhibits. When customers appreciate the collection, I turn them into a series. I currently have three series, which are dots (water drops), borders (stripes), and flowers. There are approximately 10 items in total."
Your crafts are colorful and adorable.
"I wanted to create unconventional pottery to make my nicorico brand memorable. To do so, I went through a process of trial and error to establish my current style. Most potters refrain from additional steps after molding the pottery on the wheel to prevent the pottery from chipping. I, on the other hand, deliberately decorate the pottery during the drying process. For instance, I apply many layers of colored clay after carving the pottery. Doing so makes the colored clay stand out and creates colorful pottery."
What do you think inspires nicorico customers to purchase your craft?
"I am often told that my style is very unique. Most first-time customers appreciate the pottery's colors and patterns, but repeat customers appreciate my pottery for its features. These repeat customers tell me that my pottery is surprisingly light, easy to grip, safe in microwaves and dishwashers, and does not take up a lot of space. I really wanted people to incorporate my pottery into their daily lives and I believe that making the pottery stackable helps achieve this."
What kind of projects are you working on right now?
"My father and I sell our pottery at our shop adjacent to our studio. I also try to challenge myself and be flexible. I do so by selling my pottery online and at special exhibits in department stores, accepting special orders for wedding gifts, and collaborating with Japanese tea artists."
What does pottery mean to you?
"For me? Well, my parents were high school sweethearts and my mom supported my father as he aimed to become a professional potter. I grew up eating food on my father's pottery. I am here today because of pottery. It would mean so much to me if my pottery would have a similar impact in someone's life."
Organizer: Atsuko Miyasaka
Born in Toyko in 1976. After graduating from Bunka Gakuin's Department of Architecture, she worked in the field of architecture as a university employee. In '05 she entered an apprenticeship her father to become a professional potter and established her nicorico brand in the same year. She exhibits and sells her products at solo exhibits, group exhibits, and special exhibits at department stores.