The Artist Making Bizarre and Erotic Ceramic Bowls

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Artwork by Urara Tsuchiya, Photography by Ben Toms

On the eve of her self-titled book launch, Urara Tsuchiya tells AnOther about her life and work

From dressing up in ripe banana costumes and dancing to Tease Me by Chakademus & Pliers, to ceramic bowls depicting Shunga-esque genitalia – and humans, animals and teddy bears engaging in graphic sexual acts – Urara Tsuchiya’s work treads a fine line between the kitsch and the erotic, childhood and adulthood, the commonplace and the utterly bizarre. Born in Japan, Tsuchiya moved to London at the age of 20 and she now lives in Glasgow, granted an ‘exceptional talent’ visa by the UK Embassy.

Indeed, the softly spoken multidisciplinary artist is one on her own, and as such, her practice has garnered a cult following. In particular, Tsuchiya’s pieces made with clay – a surreal take on British earthenware – have attracted much attention from curators, and are exhibited internationally. Today, she releases a new self-titled limited edition book, made in collaboration with photographer Ben Toms, featuring images of her provocative pottery. Ahead of tonight’s launch event at Union Pacific gallery in London, she tells us about her desire to shock, and how a TV show about a sewer could be her next project in the pipeline. 

On moving to the UK…
“I’ve been in the UK for 19 years. I grew up just outside of Tokyo. I didn’t go to University in Japan and I never really knew what I wanted to do. Then, my mum said that her family friend’s daughter was studying English and maybe I could do an English course too. She was subletting her room in London, so I came here intending to stay for a only a month, but ended up settling there. I then studied at Goldsmiths for my BA in Art Practice. I now live in Glasgow, where I studied for my MFA.”

On her ceramics...
“My pieces are inspired by ceramics my grandma had. She gave them to me when she was clearing her house out, but then wanted them back. But I had become attached to them, so I decided that I would to make my own. I remember I looked around a pottery studio around two years ago and saw people making small sculptures and figurines. I realised I could do the same, but put them inside a bowl. I also went to a ceramic school in Japan for two weeks, to take a crash course. I have a studio in Glasgow where I work with actual ceramicists who teach me a lot. I’ve always been interested in anthropomorphism; I try to say something a bit inappropriate and shocking with my ceramics and my work in general, but really quietly. People think it’s cute rather than offensive most of the time.”

On her new book and working with Ben Toms…
“I work with Ben a lot, and we decided that we should do a book together. Our friend Rory Gleeson designed it. Inside the book are images of my ceramics and photographs of me and my friend and fellow artist Paul Kindersley, shot by Ben, in Surrey Quays Shopping Centre. I wanted to go to the seaside to shoot, but we didn’t have much time, so had to settle for that location as there was water. When we were taking the pictures, there were school kids pointing and laughing and taking pictures. I fell into the water too, which was disgusting. There is also text inside the book, stories about my life – for example, the text about the time when I visited a Rio swingers sauna in Kentish Town – and some from old books that I have read as a child, such as a text about an octopus. Ben has printed a duvet cover specially for the book launch, so I will do some one-on-one bedtime readings, where people will get into bed with me and tuck themselves in.”

On the future…
“At the moment I’m making things for Paris Internationale, which is happening next month. I’m making more bowls and some bigger sculptures. I also have plans to work with Ben again. He wants to make a TV programme with me, about recycling things found in sewers.”

Urara Tsuchiya is out now, published by Owl Cave Books. A special launch takes place on September 13, 2018, at Union Pacific, London.