Design Notes Archive

Reiko Kaneko

Reiko Kaneko

The first time we featured a ceramist in this column was back in October 2009. Balineum was a budding company and we were excited to champion the work of artisans that could add something a bit different to your bathroom. Six years later we’re happily in the position to support local ceramists by commissioning a collection of our own. Where else would one look than to the historical home of British pottery, Stoke-on-Trent? Here, among the bottle-shaped brick chimney stacks, bone china has been produced for centuries. It’s always been an inspiration for us, from scouting missions at the British Ceramics Biennial to factory visits for tile production, because when it comes to good design authenticity matters.

So, on the referral of a friend, we tracked down British-Japanese ceramist Reiko Kaneko. A graduate of Central Saint Martins School of Design, she decamped to Stoke from her home in London’s trendy East End to be closer to the knowledge. But Reiko isn’t spinning clay on a potter’s wheel. She is a 21st century ceramist, conjuring up ideas that she painstakingly refines on her computer. In a wonderful merging of traditional techniques and modern technology, she prints 3D models that are used to make moulds filled with bone china clay and then hand-finished.

So much of design is about the creative process. Whether you’re compiling a mood board or picking paint colours. In the case of our collaboration with Reiko, we looked to countless visuals for shape, sculptural form and shades of glaze. In the end, it came down to something both classically British and Japanese – tea. We drink a lot of tea and, having just returned from a trip to Japan, Reiko was inspired by the idea of a Japanese tea set where everything is harmoniously contained within a tray. It was an “a-ha” moment! After perfecting the forms, we chose a simple, understated white glaze for the permanent collection and, in an ode to green tea and the subtle hue of a bath filled with water, a limited edition minty green glaze will also be made up. Accessorising the bathroom with fine china? I’ll drink to that!

Photography © Andrew Montgomery and Alex Wallace