Ceramics by Aoki Koji
Aoki Koji was born in 1969 in Tokyo. After graduating from Waseda University, the Japanese ceramist entered a trading company in 1992, which he quitted in 1997 to learn pottery as an autodidact.
Since then, he has gained recognition in Japan and Europe. He has exhibited in department stores in Tokyo, known for promoting fine Japanese arts and crafts (Mitsukoshi and Isetan) and in numerous galleries throughout Tokyo (especially in Kagurazaka and Ginza). He has obtained prizes at ZENTEN, Kamakura Art, and the flower vase contest of Modern Ceramic exhibitions.
The shop “De la luce” in Montpellier, France, and the Rietberg Museum’s shop in Switzerland, discovered and selected Aoki’s works at the MAISON&OBJET trade fair in Paris. Japanese gallery Mamezara 1000 selected his works to show at the Vallauris International Biennale of Contemporary Ceramics.
Since 2000, Aoki Koji has been teaching pottery and holding one-man exhibitions 2-3 times a year.
A visit to studio Bacca
Aoki’s first name means “blue tree”. Yet he chose to call his business “Studio Bacca,” reminiscent of “Bacchus” – Roman god of wine – out of love for red wine and its unique color. He opened his atelier in 2008 at Gokurakuji in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Kamakura is famous for its numerous historical Buddhist temples and for its luxurious nature, between the mountains and the sea.
TAKENOBU team discovered Aoki Koji’s work at his exhibition in a gallery at Ginza, the luxurious art and fashion district in Tokyo. We wanted to learn about his creation process by attending his pottery classes. We traveled to his studio in the countryside, on a hot and humid June day.
Coming from the tiny train station “Gokurakuji” next to a wooden red bridge, we walked down a small street. On the side, Buddhist portraits carved in high relief and flowers flanked the narrow stairs leading to the home -studio, hidden by the lush nature and located across from the famous Gokurakuji temple.
That day, the village was exceptionally crowded. It was the peak season for hydrangeas and visitors came to see the blossoming of those flowers, surrounding the 13th-century temple.
In the wooden studio, with birds singing in the background, we discovered a small stock of ceramics in the room covered by soft tatami. There, craftsman Aoki Koji is constantly practicing and teaching his passion immersed in nature.
Creation in the rhythm of nature
That day in the studio, we could understand how the strong presence of nature can inspire the ceramist’s senses. “Touching the clay, creating the form, and finally using it: this is getting the blessing of nature and feeling the energy in daily life.”
Aoki kneads the clay, then creates the form, and fires it.
When he kneads the clay, he thinks of its journey before it arrived to him. “It was piled up and it woke up from a long sleep after being dug up. Now the fortune of the clay depends on my hands.”
When he fires the clay, Aoki considers the meaning of using nature, the method of returning a favor, and its impact. “In order to survive, we cannot prevent using nature. However, I think that we, humans, are imperfect to consider how our acts can impact the future. Once the clay is fired, it cannot go back to its original state. So I feel the vocation to create each work with my whole heart.”
Aoki’s wares also offer a comfortable feeling to the user. “I want to increase the pleasure of eating by bringing beauty to everyday life.”
Served with delicious food, arranged with flowers, or poured with alcohol, the ceramic wares can be appreciated every day and given a new life in our interiors.
Hand building only
Aoki Koji enjoys using the earliest forming method that has never changed, without using any machine.
He spreads the clay little by little into his hands, then smoothly makes it thinner and lighter, and creates a gentle form by carving it from inside and outside. Aoki creates the whole piece while it’s still damp.
Hand building prevents him from mass-producing, which is why each piece is unique although similar.
Simple yet unique, traditional yet modern
Aoki Koji preserves Japanese craftsmanship by constantly improving the techniques and quality of his work.
The simplicity of the shapes is characteristic of Japanese ceramics but also makes its timeless modernity. The absence of motifs makes the wares even more minimalist.
Aoki sometimes combines several glazes of bright and dark colors, evoking a marriage of Japanese and Western styles. Those vivid colors are unusual in Japanese table ware, yet very popular in Japan.
The combination of simple forms and vivid colors is visually impactful. The ware alone becomes a decorative artwork in interiors of any style.
About colors and Japanese history
Aoki Koji named all of his collections after colors, based on traditional Japanese words and describing his feeling.
Among them, “Konparu” indicates the ceramics of matte bright blue with a greenish tone. This color was popular among Geishas, who wore it on their kimonos, in Shinbashi City (nowadays the oldest district of Tokyo).
So the color was called “shinbashi” or “konparu” after the name of the city or the street.
He named the matte light green ceramics “Wasabi”, as the vivid and refreshing tone is reminiscent of the wasabi that is arranged with sushi and sashimi (finely cut raw fish).
He named the matte dark green ceramics “Chitose Midori”, like the color of dark and deep pine needles, which have inspired Japanese artists and kimono artists for centuries.