Ceramic artist Hitomi Hosono has brought a bold, new vision to British heritage brand Wedgwood
Ceramic artist Hitomi Hosono brings a new vision to British brand Wedgwood
Iconic British lifestyle brand Wedgwood has craftsmanship heritage dating back to 1759. Its founder, Josiah Wedgwood, was not only a pioneering craftsman and potter but also an exceptional philanthropist and marketer. With his passion for innovation he would no doubt have approved of the latest chapter in the company’s history: this summer Wedgwood unveiled a collection of new jasper pieces by the Japanese artist Hitomi Hosono, its first ever artist-in-residence. The new designs combine Hosono’s creativity and artisanal talent with Wedgwood’s time-honoured techniques to breathtaking effect.
Allowing an artist to work alongside its factory technicians was a bold departure for the firm, and much of what Hosono originally wanted to do was so imaginative and intricate that realising the limited edition pieces took a year of experimentation.
Hosono grew up in an area that was surrounded by potteries. Her grandfather was a plaster and ceramics worker so she remembers being surrounded by tiles and pretty pots as a child.
After learning traditional ornamental pottery at art college in Japan, Hosono studied in Denmark before securing a place at the Royal College of Art in London for her Master of Arts degree. While studying there in 2008, she spent six weeks interning at the Wedgwood factory, where she developed new works based on her passion for natural forms, and delving into Wedgwood’s archive collection of sprigs for inspiration. This period of exploration had a profound effect on Hosono’s career and makes it entirely fitting that she should be chosen to be Wedgwood’s first artist-in-residence.
“When I was an intern, I didn’t really know why I instinctively loved Wedgwood but now I do,” she says. “It’s the precise attention to detail. I like how their designs have a sense of flow and movement which makes everything look three dimensional.”
The centrepiece to the collection is Hosono’s take on Wedgwood’s iconic Portland Vase, first exhibited in 1790. It was a jasper copy of a cameo-glass vase dating back to the reign of Emperor Augustus Caesar, and owned by the redoubtable Duchess of Portland. Hosono’s Shōka Vase (meaning sublimation) retains the traditional shape, though the distinctive
Wedgwood blue has been lightened to a gentler turquoise, and classical figures have been replaced with fern moulds, which she found in the Wedgwood archive.
“I was inspired by the original Wedgwood sprigs that were informed by nature,” she says. “I went into the archives, which is a bit like entering Wedgwood’s brain, and felt the history there. I love the idea of using a motif designed over a century ago. I formed the ferns to look as though they are climbing up from the bottom of the vase, to make it feel dramatic and exciting. The original Portland Vase had a classical Greek story neatly wrapped around it, but I love this sense of the ferns invading.”
The other artworks in the collection are equally ambitious; it takes two days to apply the 1150 individually crafted daisies that spill down the side of the mint green Kasumi Vase. The small duck egg Touka Vase is decorated with pierced chrysanthemums in three different sizes, giving the solid shape a fresh, contemporary delicacy. Shunko (pictured, top right) is a beautiful, pink trinket box with soft edges, based on a smooth pebble and embellished with clusters of hand-applied leaves evocative of Japanese gardens and their distinctive pink cherry blossom. The level of detail in each leaf cluster is exquisite, and this realism is one of Hosono’s key skills as a ceramic artist.
She enjoyed the collaborative working relationship with Wedgwood’s craftspeople and was surprised to learn that tools which were 100 years-old were still being used in the factory. “When I saw what the tiniest variation in a tool could create I understood why you would use it,” she explains “I will treasure my very time at the factory. I love that I bring a new vision to these iconic shapes.” The Wedgwood Artist in Residence pieces are available through selected stores and online at wedgwood.co.uk
1 Haruka Bowl, limited edition of five 2 Hitomi Hosono at Wedgwood’s HQ in Stoke-on-Trent, England3 Koharu Sansai Object (part of a set of three), limited edition of 10 4 Shoka Vase, limited edition of five
5 A craftsman at work on the Touka Vase 6 Vases awaiting decoration, with classical motifs from the Wedgwood archive in the background