When I think of Japanese pottery, I tend to think of just that – pottery. Usually thick, earthy pots made in traditional kilns, either by professional potters in the old kiln areas of Japan who’ve handed their skills down the generations, or craft potters who work in the Japanese tradition of wabi-sabi. But today I’m covering something different; a Japanese designer who works in the English tradition in that most English of pottery towns, Stoke on Trent.
Reiko Kaneko runs Reiko Kaneko Ltd, a company which makes bone china and sells it, not in craft fairs, but through major retail outlets like Selfridges. She also does bespoke designs for restaurants – The Fat Duck has commissioned her to produce specialist designs for serving their unique dishes. I’ve seen her work at SCP on Curtain Road, and also ran into it in my local design store, Indish in Crouch End.
Reiko Kaneko grew up in Japan but studied at Central St Martin’s and established a studio in London before moving to Stoke on Trent to continue the bone china tradition associated with the town. Bone china is actually a kind of porcelain which uses a soft paste that includes bone ash, which contributes the phosphate that gives bone china the translucent quality it is renowned for. It’s very white and very strong, so it can made thinner than other kinds of china.
It was actually invented by Thomas Frye in Bow in East London in 1748, in a factory close to the cattle markets of Essex, a ready source of bone, but it was Josiah Spode in Stoke on Trent who refined and developed it, introducing Stoke China in 1796. Apparently there are vegetarians who refuse to use bone china because it contains animal products.
I like the purity of Kaneko’s designs, marrying the simplicity of Japanese design with the translucency of bone china.
But she also offers some witty and quirky designs, like these dog and cat eating bowls, a perfect Christmas present for the canine/feline in your life.
And this twiggy snowman tree decoration is charming.
This train breakfast set for a child has an egg cup in the front and space for toast soldiers to stand to attention in the next carriage.
She sometimes pushes the boundaries of what you think can be done with a material like china. This industrial-style lamp looks like it might be made of some kind of metal, but in fact it’s bone china.
You can buy Reiko Kaneko products in London at Selfridges, SCP in Curtain Road (a short walk from Old St roundabout) or Indish in Broadway Parade, Crouch End. (Not all of them stock everything, so if you’re after a particular item, check first.)