Style Curious


Curiously meticulous ceramicist, Ikuko Iwamoto

Award winning ceramics designer, Ikuko Iwamoto, is this month’s StyleCurious interviewee. Ikuko started making ceramic pieces in 1990 at Tezukayama College in Nara, Japan. She initially trained as a potter, but started creating ceramic sculptures in 1993, just prior to commencing a course a the Royal College of Art.

Ikuko describes her designs as primarily ‘functional’. When she was making pots “I had to make the same sized cups all the time and I thought it was very boring” she explains. However, her approach changed after working on an ‘inclusive design project’ at the RCA’s Hamlyn Centre. It was here that she learned to make ‘tactile tableware’, working with partially sighted people to help develop her unique handmade style.

Ikuko is especially curious about invisible things such as sounds, music and the microscopic world – cells, genes and organic forms. Her functional pieces are still influenced by her ceramic sculpture forms and this is what customers find most appealing – the handmade quality of her work, where every little detail is individually crafted. This meticuolous level of detail also seems curiously appropriate for a subject matter that includes the tiniest of sea creatures and the minutest of micro-organisms. Ikuko expalins, “I like to make invisible things visible”.

In terms of the design process, Ikuko also makes all the casting moulds by hand. The main body of a piece is usually created from a slip-casting, but every part of the decoration, including every single spike is individually attached by hand. All of the pieces are painstakingly made from porcelain.

Ikuko’s work has already achieved critical acclaim and in March 2009, she was awarded the Ceramic Review Prize for Innovation at the RCA’s Ceramic Art London exhibition.

In her spare time, Ikuko likes to visit the Geffrye Museum in Clerkenwell, which displays a history of the style of English middle-class living rooms through collections of furniture, textiles, paintings and decorative arts. Apart from London, her favourite place is Helsinki. She’d most like to sit with her partner and friends at dinner - but would also like to invite the fittingly minimalist composer, Steve Reich.

In the future, Ikuko would love to make larger sized pieces. I’m curious to know what giant sized versions of her microscopic organisms would look like – with all those spikes on her tableware, dining with Ikuko could get pretty scary…

Thanks for talking to ShopCurious - but, if you don't mind, I’ll politely decline the offer of tea!