Tastemaker: Meet Reiko Kaneko's Modern China

British designer Reiko Kaneko functions with a very traditional English substance — bone china. Normally reserved for good table settings or higher society tea parties, Kaneko uses bone china in more playful and regular applications. Coffee mugs, eggcups, and even shot glasses are all carefully molded from this delicate substance. Her minimalist design has a bit of comedy that makes every piece approachable and playful.

Kaneko set her design studio in 2007 at London’s East End. Here, Kaneko fine-tunes her delicate designs of ceramic and English bone china. Most of her work is fabricated at a small factory in Stoke-on-Trent, England. This city is renowned as the home of pottery in England (it’s often called”The Potteries”), therefore many of the factories here use traditional, artisan methods.

Reiko Kaneko

Drip Tease teacup and saucer – $44.82

Kaneko drips, drops, stains and marks decorative details together with her Drip Tease collection.

Q: How did you get started in product design? Why ceramics?
A: I have always loved sculptures, and just naturally solved briefs at a three-dimensional way once I started college, so it occurred pretty organically. I started in ceramics because there was still a great hub of business in Stoke-on-Trent, also I was able to start small with productions. If it wasn’t for the smaller factories, then I could never have gone into ceramics.

Reiko Kaneko

The Boat, natural rope | Reiko Kaneko – $190

When the manufacturers on the mill floor first came across this breadbasket, they called it”The Boat,” because it resembles a Viking boat. The name stuck, inspiring Kaneko to provide it a nautical-looking rope handle.

Q: What kind of changes do you see occurring in product design now?
A: I believe there is a real need for simple but intelligent layouts. Something that brings in a natural aspect for this, something that enjoys the natural grain of wood, etc..

Q: What are you trying to convey with your own designs?
A: Sometimes I am just playing a bit of comedy — just to get a response from people. But more and more, I am exploring the notion of the changing ways we drink and eat. I would like to reach out across civilizations, change how we consume on tables, sofas, etc..

Reiko Kaneko

Arctic Bamboo sake cups / shooter glasses by Reiko Kaneko – GBP 5.50

These smart sake/shot glasses were designed to embrace the form of your palms while they are being held. The grip feels much more natural, and adds some quirky charm.

Q: How has your work evolved since you started? How do you see it growing?

A: When I first started, I was interested in comedy, visual puns and also the way the designer communicates with the viewer in that way. I still look into these topics in my giftware ranges, but I am also interested in the subtler forms from the dining ranges I am working on. The future is definitely a challenge. I am looking forward to learning and researching more.

Reiko Kaneko

Breakfast Express – $31.99

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day — why not have fun with it? Kaneko’s childlike”Breakfast Express” includes three bone china carriages, linked together with hidden magnets. Pick from an eggcup, toast rack, or salt and pepper cellar.

Q: What are some of your favourite new design trends?
A: I am obsessed with beautiful objects and subtler forms right now.

Q: What are a few of your own favourite products?
A: I like the simpleness of this Boat and the Arctic ranges, but the Breakfast Express still makes me laugh.

Reiko Kaneko

Petal plates – $7.78

Kaneko made these soft and elegant Petal dishes for all the sauces and side dishes that come with Asian cuisine. Switch them around in just about any way to make an endless number of tessellations.

Q: What performers, past and present, inspire you?
A: I am really interested in Video art Right Now. I find it mesmerizing and beautiful. Doug Foster’s functions are incredible and some unknown Youtube hits, such as this.

Reiko Kaneko studied at Central St. Martin’s college in England. Though she was born in Britain, Kaneko spent most of her childhood in Japan. Many of her pieces are a combination of more traditional British tableware and serveware, using a distinctly Japanese look and function.

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