Reiko Kaneko was born in Britain but spent her childhood in Japan, and those roots are clear to see in her bold yet fragile ceramics. She established her design studio in London’s East End in 2007, having studied arts and design at Central Saint Martins. We’ve always loved these, and this. She will be showing at Pulse in June, but until then, she tells
What’s your studio like? We’re in the middle of a move so there are currently boxes stacked high. But it’s a nice light room in a converted clothing factory in the East End of London. The building is full of studios with fashion designers, film production companies and workshops. Once we tackle the boxes, we’ll have plenty of space for a plaster works area but, already, it’s cluttered with previous models and half-finished projects.
Who or what inspired you to become a designer? Initially, I was inspired by artists – especially contemporary, and slightly off-beat people but then when I saw Jurgen Bey’s Tree-trunk bench, it all clicked into place. Like catching a ball he’d thrown out, I got it and design suddenly felt like a two-way thing.
How do you get from idea in your head to finished piece? It all starts in my sketchbook – I’m not all that good at drawing so thankfully, with the power of technology (3-d computer modelling programmes) the drawings are push, pulled and tweaked for the model maker. The plaster models are then made up in Staffordshire after consulting with experienced producers. Ceramics is, after all, earth and mud and what happens in the heat of the kiln can be very unpredictable with new shapes and forms. As a designer, I need their knowledge and recommendations as the design progresses into production. After the moulds are set up, samples are made and if we need to finish it off by splicing rope or adding wheels, we put it together in our studio ready for another home.
What are you most proud of? Just to be able to work on this every day. Quitting my part-time work after years of ‘setting up’ was a very happy day.
How far ahead does your masterplan stretch? I really believe in preserving manufacturing skills in England so I would like to continue increasing the product offering to perhaps hit upon one day, a formula for the finest English China.
What do you hope to get out of Pulse this year? Catching up with retailers and press. It’s always a great chance to see everyone again and also a great place to meet new people and talk about interesting up and coming projects.
Other than designing, what makes you happy? Apart from the usual joys of being with friends, I love cutting tofu, honey and marmite on toast, a rare chance for a nap and a good challenge.
How would you spend your perfect weekend? It would involve sunshine and friends in London – maybe Hampstead Heath ladies’ ponds, a green tea tart at Lanka in Primrose Hill, a cycle to Broadway market preferably along the canal for a few drinks. Then balance up the weekend with discipline through my usual Sunday activity – Japanese archery practices (Kyudo).
Tell us a secret. I’ve a collection of Royal memorabilia. Mugs, plates, ashtrays, the works – it was a happy day when I acquired the latest tacky Royal wedding mug…