Ten years ago, Akio traveled overseas to Los Angeles for the first time by way of Heath, to exhibit and share his pottery with a new audience. Our friend Adam Silverman — then Clay Studio Director — had seen his work in Japan, and his process and form immediately resonated.
Since that show 10 years ago, Akio has brought new work to Heath every year, and the friendship that’s formed along the way is as soulful and alive as the objects themselves. In his work, we see evidence of tradition, both in technique and origin, as well as keen attention to the experience of using the objects.
We sat down with Akio and reflected on the past 10 years: what it was like to come to the US for his first show at Heath, what wabi sabi means to him, and how his perspective on design informs his work.
Having Adam Silverman see your work in Japan and ask you to show in the US must have been an honor — exciting and scary?
I was so honored and excited to hear his suggestion then. To be honest, it was the first trip outside of Japan for me. I was so excited for having a chance to visit a foreign country, but I thought it would be the first and last trip overseas.
What was the first show at Heath Ceramics like for you?
I asked Adam what I should make for my show. He told me, “do the same as you do in Japan.” His words made me so relieved, and I was able to finish my work while relaxing. Each year, you create new styles for us — it’s exciting to see. What’s the process of creating something new, yet still so Akio?
Throwing, throwing, throwing! And firing, firing, firing!
What does Wabi Sabi mean? There are so many poor English translations — tell us what it means for you. Do you consider your work Wabi Sabi?
I love Wabi Sabi, but even for a Japanese potter like me, it’s very difficult to answer. Things can be rusted and become dirty and disappear by deteriorating over time. Basically, it is deterioration — it is a negative image. But sometimes we can find unique beauty in our aesthetic sense during the deteriorating. I think that kind of sensibility is called Wabi Sabi: accepting as it is naturally made. It's natural for me to explore rustic texture.After 10 years, do you have any Heath pieces at home? Which ones?
I usually use Heath’s cups that can be used for soup and plates.What is the most memorable moment from the last 10 years?
It was the 2011 show: we had an earthquake disaster before my show starting-day. On that day I was in the Narita airport with my family to go to LA — it was so scary.
We got to LA, and the show opened safely on March 12, but my studio and home were damaged. Adam and Heath started a donation for me — I can’t thank them enough.
After knowing Cathy and Robin for 10 years, how would you describe them?
They are awesome. They always have an open mind and they're brave. They made Heath Ceramics grow greatly in these 10 years. Not only that, they've created a new handmade culture in a ceramic business — that's unbelievable. I'm so happy and honored to be able to work with them.
Thank you, Akio! Join us as we celebrate — see and shop new work, toast with us to the tenth year, and mingle with Akio and friends at the upcoming Opening Reception, Akio & Heath: Forming Tradition Since 2009.
Don’t forget to follow along #akioandheath
for the decade-long story.