Musician-turned-potter, Akira Satake fully embraces the notion that beauty can be imperfect; his wood-fired pieces are a collaboration with fire, smoke, ash, clay and heat. In our visit with Akira at his home studio, kiln site and River Arts District gallery, he explains how he finds inspiration in the tension of the unexpected.
"Just as jazz isn't about the perfectly landed note or precise trills, pottery—specifically wood-fired pottery—is not about an unblemished form," says Akira. "Rather, the beauty is in serendipity."
Standing next to stacked wood pile, Akira describes his firing process as a jazz ensemble requiring pain-staking attention to all parties (wood, fire, and the elements). A good partnership reveals itself when each musician toys with individual rhythm and pacing, but collaboratively finds unexpected moments to add emotion and a bit of their own personality to the piece.
Akira climbs into his kiln to illustrate how the collaboration works—everything from the weather to the quality of wood to the positioning of pieces within the kiln affects the final outcome of his works. As a result, each firing requires constant tending. At designated times throughout the day (and night), Akira and his team will add new wood and use pyrometric cones to get the ideal temperatures for flames and melted ash to flitter and fall on the vessels.
"Sometimes you're disappointed with what comes out of the kiln," reflects Akira. "But more often than not, you're pleasantly surprised by the serendipitous quirks in color and form."
Stay tuned for an in-depth article on Akira Satake coming soon.