Founder Feature: Akai Ceramic Studio

Posted by Jenny Tellier on

This month, we launched Health Hut candles, a project we've been working on behind the scenes for a couple of years. Throughout the process, we went through many iterations of both the scents and containers until we were completely satisfied that we had made the best clean candles on the market.

An important consideration in this undertaking was finding a vessel that went beyond recyclable. We wanted to extend the life of the product to be a functional, artisan object for the home. Enter Akai Ceramic Studio. Each candle vessel in the collection is handmade by Japanese taught ceramist, Yusuke.

This week, we sit down with the founders of Akai Ceramic Studio, Naomi and Yusuke. 

Naomi and Yusuke, we’re happy to have the opportunity to connect with you at the launch of our candles, made in collaboration with Akai Ceramic Studio.

Both candles in this collection are poured into a handcrafted ceramic vessel made by yourself, Yusuke, right here in Toronto. The craftsmanship and quality of the work comes through in every vessel. We’re so excited to transform our spaces long after we blow out the flame with a chunky bud vase or minimalist mug. Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us.

HH: The artist’s path is often one full of much excitement, unexpected twists and unwavering commitment. We’d love to know how it is you both got to where you are. What did the path to a small, family owned ceramic studio look like for you both? 

AKAI: Naomi and I approach pottery making from different perspectives. Naomi comes from an interior design and architecture background and I, Yusuke, am a craftsman, making pottery that I learned in Japan.

In addition to this, I believe that our small family owned ceramic studio is made possible through the involvement of many people in Toronto. We listen to customers opinions and feedback at craft shows. We also work with chefs to create beautiful pieces that enhance the enjoyment of food, creating something new and special with the restaurant staff. The candles we made with Health Hut are a part of that community. 

HH: Akai Ceramic Studio produces beautiful and intimate objects that bring a sense of softness and appreciation to life. What philosophy or credo guides the studio? 

AKAI: I want to create pottery that is functional, simple and beautiful.

I would say—imperfect.

I do not want my work to be complete by itself. I try to create pieces that are complete when you put flowers in them, put food on them or light candles in them.

HH: We’d love to know the journey of the ceramic vessels in our collection—from a mound of wet clay to a functional object. For those that are unfamiliar with how ceramic objects are made, can you give insight to the process?

AKAI: First, shapes are made with clay, either hand kneaded or on a potters wheel. When the vessels are half dried, the back of the vessels are scraped or stamped. I then allow the pieces to dry completely for four to five days. Next, I fire them in a kiln—unglazed—at 700-800°C. After removing from the kiln, I glaze the vessels, dry them, and then pack them back into the kiln for a second firing.

During this second firing, the temperature of the kiln rises to 1250-1280℃ for nine hours. Then, the pieces are cooled to below 100℃ for 10 hours to complete the process.

HH: For us, beauty is just as important as function and as a result our homes are filled with artisan vases, cups and candle holders. We’re curious, what are some of your most treasured artist made objects in your home? 

AKAI: Our matcha bowl made in Japan 40 years ago by Miwa Kyūsetsu.

HH: Yusuke, we learned that the first ceramic object you made was a porcelain tea cup at age 13. What is it about the medium of clay and the experience of shaping it that continues to captivate you?

AKAI: It is, after all, the moment when the kiln is opened. I still feel the same excitement as when I experienced it for the first time. I remember flying home from school because I wanted to open the kiln as soon as possible, I still rush to the studio after work to open the kiln.

And just because I am excited does not mean that the result will be good. Once the work is in the kiln, it is out of my hands, I no longer have control over it.

Sometimes I can produce more than I imagined and other times I am stunned (not in a good way).

Pottery requires a variety of skills: a sense of what kind of thing to make, the skill to create shapes in clay and, a little scientific sense to make glazes. Making pottery involves so many different elements that you will never get bored!

HH: We imagine each HH candle to be the catalyst for slow and intentional daily routines—a candlelit bubble bath at the end of the day or the light by which you make a cup of early morning tea. What are some daily rituals that keep you both grounded and connected?

AKAI: To cook and eat on a variety of artisan dishes, including my own.

HH: Any local shops, restaurants or people in Toronto or Canada that feed your creative spirit? We’d love to know.  

AKAI: Local shop: Souvenir StudiosLocal restaurants: Actinolite and Grey Gardens



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