Hitomi Hosono is a Japanese-born ceramicist who has lived and worked in the UK since 2007. She is best known for her pots decorated with minutely etched ceramic leaves and flowers, which have been shown at major industry shows.
Recently, she has been working on a project to reimagine UK pottery Wedgwood’s iconic Jasperware vase, as well as a series of pieces inspired by her local takeaway restaurants in Finsbury Park, London, for the new Japanese galleries at the British Museum.
Why did you choose to go into ceramics?
I was born in Kani city, Japan, where pottery is a mega industry. My grandfather was a ceramic worker, so naturally my house was full of old materials he used for his work. I love clay: it is very tactile and instant, and your idea can take shape quickly.
How would you characterise your style?
Botanical-inspired carved porcelain. No matter what kind of traditional pottery I see, I try to find some element that could be expanded to make something new. I make my work by looking at the traditional pot through a different perspective.
What do you think of mass-market pottery?
I worry that pottery is priced so cheaply in the mass market. I am aware of the long process and materials required to make ceramics, so I wonder whether those making them earn a decent living. Most people think mass-market pottery is produced super-cheaply and quickly, but actually, even in large pottery factories, a lot of the processes need to be done by hand.
Name your top three influences
First, my grandfather. He made our house and applied tiles everywhere by hand. It is meticulously done. He was a perfectionist, and by looking at his work every day I learnt that perfection is really important to making ceramics.
Then there is a German photographer called Karl Blossfeldt. He was a sculpture teacher but is famous for his photographs of plants. By looking at his work, I found I could train my eyes to notice more of the detail of plants.
Finally, my mother, because she had a flower garden and even now I am still inspired by the flowers she used to grow in Japan.
If you could smash one of your own pieces, which would it be and why?
When I started out in Japan, I liked to make grotesque ceramics. For my graduation piece I made intestines in porcelain, then, as a goodbye present, I gave a part of it to my close friend. She looked happy, but maybe that was a show of kindness. If I could get her permission I think I’d want to smash that.
Who would design a vase for you?
My niece. She is very young, in primary school, but children are really inspiring because they are not tied up in the whole concept of using art and design. So far she has made some small cups, but [children] have no rules, so they are very creative.
Is there anyone in your field you particularly admire?
Kate Malone, who was a judge in the BBC television series The Great Pottery Throw Down. She is constantly making new work, and that is important because sometimes, especially in Japan, artists stay in one style for ever. She is also an ambassador for pottery. She is trying to include more people in the ceramics world.
What is the one object you would never allow in your home?
I wouldn’t have one of my own [larger] pieces. I only have very small pieces of my work at home. I would prefer to show them in a nicer house.
What is the strangest project you have ever worked on?
The strangest project — or can I say “request”? — was an exhibition with Jerwood Makers Open [a UK open call for early-career ceramicists] at Gallery Oldham. They asked me to submit the fired porcelain leaves and flowers that had been used for my pieces so that blind people could feel them. It was nice because I usually think my pieces are something to look at.
Another that surprised me was a collector who asked to help me make a piece. She wanted to experience my process to enjoy work that she bought. She was actually very good.
What is your favourite item of everyday pottery?
How has each country that you have worked in influenced your style?
I studied in Japan, which gave me an obsession with detail and perfectionism, then in Denmark, where I learnt the importance of research. In Japan, they look more at the final piece of work, then judge it, but in Denmark they often see the research as more important than the art. British pottery has also influenced my work, especially the sprigging technique (a thin relief attached to the surface of a coloured pot) used by Wedgwood.
What do you see as the overriding trend in your field at the moment — even if you don’t subscribe to it?
I think it is a bit more inclusive. Nowadays, the maker and the audience are more aligned, and it is important that the process inspires people. The artist has to provide not only the final work but should also show the process or inspiration. In London, there are lot of pottery courses and more people want to make their own work. These kinds of places connect people, so I think ceramics are doing a good thing for the community.
Photographs: Simon Upton/Courtesy of Wedgwood Collection; Sylvain Deleu