Conversations with an Artist: Kikuko Kohno
Story is such an integral part of how we curate our collections. Kikuko Kohno embraces narrative in powerful and charming ways in her porcelain wheel thrown and illustrated ceramics that exemplify the connection to our hearts and minds. We met through a surprising circumstance with Kikuko in Japan and a colleague of hers in the South Bay and via a long time customer. We so appreciate Kikuko's honesty and vulnerability in and about her work and look forward to delighting you with her fantastical worlds.
Describe the moment you realized art fed your soul.
It always has.
My bond with creativity has become even stronger, especially after the
loss of my mother when I was 8 years old.
Even after having a baby and raising a family, art and making things
every day keeps me in a good state of mind.
Art and creativity are absolutely necessary for me to stay healthy and alive.
What themes do you pursue in your art?
Fantastic worlds that lead me out of the everyday and through my inner world.
The circle of blood... Mother, myself, and my son.
I see my mother in myself as I see myself in my son.
Tell us about what influences the direction for your craft.
Nagasaki, my birthplace
Death of my mother
Dissociative Identity Disorder
How has your work developed over time?
I was a child who loved to draw alone from an early age
After repeatedly winning many contests, I made my debut as an
illustrator at the age of 18.
I drew illustrations for books and newspapers.
However, I was caught up in my family's huge debt problems and
pressure from my parents, and gradually I became mentally trapped and
could no longer draw at all.
Even after spending several years resolving my debt and parents'
problems, I still could not paint because I could not shake off my
mental anxiety. Even though I could not paint, I always wanted to
express myself, so I went to Cuba to study folklore art (traditional
dance and music) in search of a method of expression other than
After returning to Japan, I worked as a dance instructor, got married,
and had a baby.
I underwent therapy after the birth of my child, which helped me to
overcome my mental anxiety, and I was able to paint again.
I spend most of my time painting and making ceramics while living in
the Japanese countryside surrounded by rice paddies and fields.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
Sunlight coming through the windows.
In winter, a heater and warm clothes! (In the winter my studio is
Do you collect anything?
I try not to collect anything in order to have as much work space as possible.
But I do buy catalogues of good art exhibitions.
What is the most inspiring thing you have seen, read, watched, or
listened to recently?
My son raised a Monarch butterfly larva by leafing it and turning it
into a chrysalis, and it finally hatched. I saw my son this morning as
he watched and further observed the butterfly as it flew out of the
I thought this was a very inspirational moment.
As far as what I've read, not recently.
"The Clever Princess," a book written by a British woman named Diana Coles.
"Miss Rumphius", a picture book written by Barbara Cooney in the U.S.,
which is still a model for my lifestyle.
Three years ago, I saw an exhibition in Tokyo by Chiharu Shiota, a
Japanese artist living in Berlin, Germany, which was shocking,
interesting, and moving.
Not so recently, but some of the most inspiring things I have heard
are hymns and festival music.
I went to a Christian girls' school founded by an American. I sang
hymns every morning and evening during my most impressionable teenage
years, so I always feel nostalgic when I hear old hymns.
The similarity between the festival music of my native Nagasaki and
that of Cuba was a major reason for my fascination with Cuban
folklore. I think the reason was that at that time Japan and Cuba were
connected by trade, with European ships coming and going between the
two countries. I was astonished when I realized that even if I went to
the other side of Japan, I would eventually seek the music of my
homeland. I was astonished.
What advice would you give your younger self about your artistic journey?
I would hug my younger self like I do my sons.
I think by doing so I was able to give myself a boost.
At the time I didn't know how to hug myself and couldn't do it at all.
Bonus question. What role has music played for you while you work and during COVID?
Before COVID and after COVID, my life did not change much.
I am always in the studio from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm working on things.
I finish work at 5:30pm, cook dinner, take a bath with my son, and go to bed.
Every day is a repetition, but I am not bored at all because every day
I am thinking of ways to improve and trying new things.
I enjoy music when I am driving.
For my exhibition "Fantastic worlds come into the life," which was
held at the end of COVID, I used music I composed myself as background
music to draw visitors into my world through both the ears and the
We receive Kikuko's wheel thrown and individually illustrated porcelain ceramics in small batches. Scoop some up for your table!
Check out the collection here.