In honor of the opening of our Detective Building store in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Schoolhouse Fall Collection features art and homewares from several local Pittsburgh makers. For this blog series, we reached out to some of these makers to ask them about what drives them to create these beautiful artifacts. This week, we spoke with potter and jewelry maker Reiko Yamamoto, whose Handmade Fruit Bowl featured prominently in our line. Reiko explained how her childhood in Japan, her high school pottery class, and her current role as a mother-maker influences her process for making elegant, highly nuanced ceramics.
Tell us about yourself! Who are you and what do you specialize in?
"I am a potter. I make modern, versatile and functional pottery for everyday use. Each and every piece is designed, made and fired in my studio in Pittsburgh, PA."
How did you get started in ceramics? What has kept you working with clay and glaze?
"I grew up in Japan, in a place where handmade ceramics are part of daily life. We ate our family meals using an array of handmade dishes, so I was exposed to it at quite a young age. But it wasn’t until I moved to the US, as a freshman in high school, that I first tried my hand at it. I had an instant connection to the material and process, and the classroom became one of the only places I felt like I could communicate freely, despite my inability to speak English. Though I took a prolonged break after receiving my BFA, I ultimately decided to bring it back into my life as I missed the materiality—the tactile and responsive nature of clay. Clay also gave me an excuse to slow down, to pay attention to the often-overlooked details. It gave me a place where I can stop, play and explore—then and now."
What are some of your creative influences?
"I love cooking and eating, so often my ideas develop from things I wish I had in my own kitchen. But I also draw inspiration from all the things I do and see, from gardening to interacting with our children, exploring museums or shopping in thrift stores, and all the unexpected ways in which inspiration strikes."
As part of our Pittsburgh Collection, we’re featuring your Handmade Fruit Bowl. How did this piece come about?
"I wanted to create a piece that was simple but had a presence on its own. I was attracted to the oval shape, as I find it to be a very elegant shape and also something that was missing from my line up. In making the oval shape, I combined the techniques of wheel throwing and hand-building. The finish is in white but with subtle textural difference between the matte exterior and satin/glossy interior."
What does your creative process look like? Are you a routine-oriented person or does your creativity come about more organically?
"I love routine-oriented, repetitious work but my creativity definitely comes more organically. That is also a reflection of my life as a maker-mother, where I just have to take that time where I can. My path is definitely not narrow and straight, but meandering, with many splits in the road along the way."
What’s your favorite step in the process of making a new piece?
"I love generating new ideas because then I get to play!"
What’s it like to be a maker in Pittsburgh? Is there a strong community vibe or is it defined more by independent artisans?
"Pittsburgh has been a very supportive and generous community. I feel that I have been blessed with both with peers and mentors. I feel lucky to be living and working in this city."