An interview with Yoichi Shiraishi & Midori Uchida


Yoichi Shiraishi creates soft works that seem to visualize the fluctuation of nature using the mud plaster casting technique, and Midori Uchida creates beautiful shapes and landscapes from her own inner landscapes by hand building. We interviewed these two husband-and-wife ceramic artists about their past and their works.


Yoichi Shiraishi

Ever since I was a child, I felt uncomfortable doing the same things as other people. When I was in junior high school, I began to feel somewhat uncomfortable in a situation where everyone was studying without question in the classroom. In high school, I sometimes skipped classes and went to see the ocean or read novels at home. I didn't really dislike school, but I had something bothering me inside at that time. I was 21 years old when I left Fukuoka for Tokyo.I moved from Fukuoka to Tokyo when I was 21 years old and thought I would become a vintage clothing shop owner. I like vintage clothing from the 1940s and 1950s. Clothes from that period are very elaborate and creative. Vintage clothes have scuffs and stains from the lives of the people who wore them. I think it is interesting that these things have passed through time and are now in my hands. But as I found out working at a vintage clothing store, vintage clothing from the era I like is rarely available on the market. If you can't stock something, you can't sell it, so I naturally turned my attention to making things. I chose ceramics out of the many other options such as woodworking, metalworking, and textiles because I felt it offered the most freedom.Then, I visited many old kilns in Japan and was attracted by the freedom of Shino and Oribe, so I looked for a school in Gifu prefecture and entered Tajimi City Pottery Design and Technical Center.I was about 27 years old at the time, so it was a very late start.All the people around me were experienced people who had been working on the potter's wheel since their teenage years, such as art college graduates and people from kilns. I always asked myself if it was possible for me to become an artist without any skills, knowledge, or experience. While feeling complex, I thought about what I had that made me better than others, and I realized that "having nothing" was a strength in itself. Because I have nothing, I can question the various rules of ceramics and think from scratch. What I am doing now also starts from that time. In pottery, a work is done when it is fired, but I was not convinced with the fact that it leaves my hands at the end. Then I started thinking, if we must entrust work to the law of nature in the firing process, why not leave it to nature from the beginning ; the forming process? I thought that was something making sense to me, and it was an unprecedented approach to let the law of nature make work in whole process. I just respect and assist it. The current porcelain vessels were started from this idea.  I named my vessel brand "pheno”, which meant before the phenomenon begins. Pheno's vessels are made using a technique called casting, in which the clay is not touched by hand, but the natural texture created by the plaster mold absorbing the moisture of the clay is left intact in the work. Something that had been bothering me for a long time seems to have become clear to me with this method so far.The objects I create under the name "Yoichi Shiraishi" are made of raw clay excavated from the mountains, once granulated and placed in molds, and then fired into geometric shapes. Although the visible surfaces of pheno's vessels and Yoichi Shiraishi's objects are different in that they have different purposes and are made of different materials (porcelain clay and raw clay), they are both made with the same core concept of "things made by nature''. My interest has recently shifted from the final product itself to the underlying physical laws and phenomena in the global environment. I think that creating a work of art is a wonderful act that allows me to look at things from a new perspective and enjoy them all over again.


Midori Uchida

Ever since I was a child, people around me have told me that I am laid-back. I grew up happily in a peaceful environment without any major worries or problems. I chose to study at an art college because I could not imagine working as a company employee and I wanted to have something to do with my hands. I chose the ceramics course without any specific reason. However, I clearly remember that when I touched the clay in a class soon after entering the university, I felt that I would probably continue to work with ceramics. Most students at the university were working on objects, but I was making pots on the potter's wheel. When I was wondering how I could continue my ceramic art after graduation, I heard about the Tajimi City Pottery Design and Technical Center and decided to enter the institute. When I came to Tajimi, I learned that many of my seniors were active as young potters, which gave me an image of the future. At the Institute, I was impressed by the classes to learn about one's own senses. For example, we made about 10 lumps of clay that we just held in our hands and chose which one we liked best to make our senses clearer.During those two years of study, I gradually came to understand what it means to create my own work and what kind of work I want to create. Although the techniques have changed between what I was making then and what I am making now, what I am trying to express has not changed that much. I have repeatedly tried to create pieces that get closer to the vague images I have in my mind, and currently I am working on hand-building and carbonization firing that I believe these are suitable for my expression. Inspirations of my works come from mostly the moment when I look at the sky. It is the feeling I get when I breathe in, then my heart is full of air and emotions. It is filled with complex emotions that cannot be expressed in words. These moments motivate me to create. I feel full of energy for my creation. What I want to express is not the beauty of the sky itself, but my inner landscape arised from the beautiful sky. I hope it can appear in my work. I believe that each person has various inner landscapes of emotion and nostalgia in his/her mind. I look at my inner landscapes, and just seek beautiful shapes and beautiful landscapes. I hope that my work will resonate with the inner landscapes of those who see it.I have always been like that, but since the birth of my child, I feel that my desire to be positive has become even stronger. I have been able to live in peace because of my environment. My parents trusted me and allowed me to be free in moderation, and I was exposed to many different places and landscapes. Looking back, I feel really happy. I believe that a work of art is not only a technical skill, but also an accumulation of all the things I have done in my life, so I hope that by facing the creation of artwork with sincerity, it will reach someone else's heart.


Shiraishi creates his works with a methodology that defies common sense, leaving the molding process, which is essentially the point at which artists exhibits their creativity, to nature. What we sensed when we spoke with him was a spirit of questioning existing values and a trust in nature. On the other hand, Midori, who creates works that evoke soft and gentle feelings and touch our hearts, conveyed her appreciation and trust in the world around her. Despite their contrasting paths and production methodologies, the two artists say that they see things very similarly. The two have arrived at their own unique style of expression by continually confronting nature and their own inner landscapes. After hearing their stories, we were reminded of the fact that a work of art is deeply rooted in the life and worldview of its creator.

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