“A New Type of Ceramics Through an Accumulated Thoughts” — Namika Nakai (Ceramic Artist)
Establishing a new style to challenge existing values
— Were you interested in ceramics since you were a child?
Since my father was an architect, I had always been in a creative environment. However, I’d never thought I’d be interested in ceramics or art. Even as a student, I didn’t attend art school and instead went on to major in psychology during my years at university. The reason I was interested in psychology was because I was fond of thinking about the way emotions shift in various circumstances, such as how people wonder why they felt certain ways when they felt moved by something or reflect on their actions when they had said something harsh. At the time, I was interested in becoming a counselor, so I was studying to pursue a career in a field very distant from art. Back, then I’d never thought I’d had the ability to become an artist.
One of my greatest turning points came when I traveled abroad to study for 1 year in Australia. There, some of my friends were into film-making and creative writing, and though we couldn’t communicate well lingually, I could sense that they were creating marvelous things. As I interacted with my peers, I had started to feel an urge to begin creating thins myself, and later, I went on to study art at a Danish folk high school. There, I chose to take ceramics and glasswork courses. Therefore, my first encounter with ceramics was while I was overseas.
— What did you study while in art school?
I was only there for 6 months, so I was only able to learn basic things. We would have discussions where we shared our ideas and in terms of ceramics, I had some experience in casting. I felt the courses had a strong design-based feel to them. What impressed me the most was a course that introduced me to experimental glasswork. Rather than teaching us to create something beautiful, we were taught to try something new. For example, we would put air in the tube for blown glass and watch the glass explode or even drop the glass from the second floor of a building. Through these courses, I felt that my mind frame and sense of beauty had merged, leaving me with a great sense of satisfaction. This is where I decided I would seriously pursue an education in ceramics when I returned to Japan.
— Why did you decide to study ceramics in Japan and not overseas?
One of the main reasons was because I had not known much about Japan. I felt it would seem odd, that if I were to pursue a career in art as a Japanese national, to not know much about the country I came from. While I made up my mind to become an artist through my experiences at art school, I had to rethink what I was required to do to maintain my activities as one.
Returning to what we were talking about, for example, in Japan, while it is said that clay is an ingredient that easily reflects the emotions and spiritual natures of the artist, in Denmark, clay was thought of more as a tool to shape expressions. Through this, I came to understand that the Danish people have more of a design-based approach rather than the art-based approach of the Japanese people. Being Japanese, this realization led me to choose to study ceramics in Japan in order to make full use of my Japanese roots. Moreover, when I think of ceramics, Japan was the most obvious choice for me.
— What kind of process did you go through to establish your current style?
Initially, I thought a ceramic artist would make a living, simply by creating ceramic pieces and selling them. However, as I continued to create more and more, I began to discover the true beauty of ceramicware. For example, there were moments that produced unexpected results. Even if I had attempted to create simple tableware, as I mixed the glaze, I would end up with pieces that were unfit for tableware but were extremely beautiful in texture. Some pieces would also end up in odd shapes when I baked them. This led me to discover a style I wanted to pursue.
Although I was familiar with the fun factor of the baking phenomenon, there were also several expressions that came about by accident. However, it felt superficial to present them as actual art pieces, and I felt new techniques and intentions that could induce special phenomena were required to establish a work of art. From there, through trial-and-error, I would test various techniques. For example, during the hand-forming stage, I would thin out the clay to have various changes occur when it is baked or apply movement that would make the clay seem as if it was defying gravity. During these trials, I would be conscious on why I chose a certain type of clay for each piece. At this stage, I would prioritize my instincts and choose ones that were simply beautiful or ones that I liked for some reason. From there, I start thinking why I was fascinated by that type of clay by pondering about what the material is originally made of and what white porcelain is to begin with. I then link my experiences with new notions and arrange them into a new concept. My style of production focuses on the process to discover answers by formulating hypotheses for senses that can’t be perceived by the eye. I attained this method through my education in psychology during my years in university.
Those phenomenon such as clacking, melting and warping are considered as threat for ceramic works but I believe that it is able to represents the ambivalent beauty of strength with delicacy and fragile.
The porcelain clay that has been thinly stretched by hand forming, like the minimum boundary between the inside and the outside. The wrinkle marks that appear on the surface show the environment and process at the time of forming like the stratum. The glaze which has a lower melting point than the porcelain clay, becomes one of the layers and changes the form by firing.
With the mission of "Respect and Go Beyond," the company is developing an art production business that raises the spirituality and aesthetics of the tea ceremony by "reinterpreting" the comprehensive Japanese art of "chanoyu" by crossing it with various domains such as technology and street culture.