Reiko Kaneko

Captivating ceramics from a British-Japanese designer in Stoke-on-Trent

I’m one of those people for whom the first coffee of the day is something of a ritual. I can’t say I’m fussy about the brand or the bean, but I am particular about the vessel: I insist on drinking it from one of six fine bone china mugs I own by British-Japanese designer Reiko Kaneko.

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Taken from the 2008 Lip Tease and Drip Tease collection, these mugs (£14 each, first picture), with their spare gold and platinum designs on brilliant white, are sophisticated, stylish and humorous, but above all functional – being tall and narrow, they retain the heat of my morning elixir far longer than any other mug I have.

Needless to say, they are not the only Kaneko designs to have caught my eye. Her monogrammed heart mugs (£14 each) and personalised teapots (£65, fourth picture) have long been my gift of choice for newlyweds, and I am currently lusting after a large, angular white china bowl with a quirky rope handle, affectionately named The Boat (£115). “It shouldn’t have worked,” says Reiko of the design, “yet it turned out to be an incredibly strong structure.”

While the Tease ranges reign supreme in terms of popularity (New York’s MoMA is a stockist), Kaneko’s focus has changed in the past eight years. In 2012 the Central Saint Martins graduate moved from London to the heart of the UK ceramics industry, Stoke-on-Trent. Here she has been experimenting with materials such as terracotta (bowls from £16, seen in fifth picture), and transforming white bone china vases (from £35, second picture) and jugs (from £19) with vibrant, hand-dipped glazes. She has also created specially commissioned fine-dining ranges (including a bone-shaped dish for serving bone marrow at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck) and delicate ceramic jewellery, such as the gold-glazed triangle Hula pendant (£20, third picture) and earrings (£70).

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In Kaneko’s Stoke-on-Trent showroom (and on her website, for that matter), contemporary sake cups sit comfortably next to a toast rack-cum-egg cup (£50, sixth picture) designed to look like a toy train, but above all there is an overwhelming sense of the individual at work – and a feeling that each piece, much like one’s morning coffee, is something to be savoured.

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