Get to Know: Japanese Designer Yuko Nishikawa

Yuko Nishikawa
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Yuko Nishikawa is a Japanese designer specializing in contemporary ceramics, which she makes from her studio on Grand St. in Brooklyn, New York.

Her work bridges the world of fantastical lightscapes and whimsical art, and are inspired by as much. Take You See A Sheep (above and below), for example, a lighting collection inspired by The Little Prince and Model T Frankenstein: bulbs are housed in hand-built ceramic shells and strung by a thin metal wire so the shells appear to levitate in an open room.

The shells were made by paper fiber in a wet clay body so they are lightweight and easy to hang. Nishikawa used a coiling technique to create the uneven surface and irregular shapes, cut holes in the clay once it dried up, then applied color over them and fired them in an electric kiln.

Then there’s the quartet collection entitled Nico and His Cousins, made up of two pairs of right- and left-handed hand-built ceramic table lamps.

In explaining the inspiration behind this, Nishikawa said, “I like my hands…it’s simply because I can make things that did not exist just a moment ago appear in my life, like breakfasts, drawings, and ragtime tunes. I can make tools to make forms to make lamps to make space to make shows to make friends to give tools to so they can also make things.”

The ceramic globes balance on thin sculptural hand structures with the help of thin steel wires, and can be moved around in an interactive, organic way.

“I hope it will make a fun experience to unpack and put the parts together. I want it to be like assembling the small toys I used to find in the bottom of a cereal box,” said Nishikawa.

For her series of lighting pieces entitled Courtship Behavior, Nishikawa looked to the Satin Bowerbird in Eastern Australia. She was entranced by their courtship behavior, in which male birds collect blue objects to embellish a structure as part of their mating ritual and to attract their dream partner.

Courtship Behavior takes the form of alluring, entrancing lighting objects that are glazed in various colors and textures and then finished to produce a matte, oxidized appearance.

Not limited to her bounds of her ceramics studio, Nishikawa also creates installations, draws, photographs, writes, and makes tableware. Nap, a collection of her work, was turned into an installation: a forest of lights at Sculpture Space NYC in Long Island City last year.

To rejuvenate and replenish the creative cycle, Nishikawa also hosts Salon at Forest, a monthly discussion featuring creatives over all disciplines from ceramics to painting, taxidermy to poetry, glass to film. The event is free and everyone is always welcome. Past speakers include biodesigner Danielle Trofe, tea lover Ting Nicholds, Ikebana enthusiast Asae Takahashi, designer-artist Ian Cochran, and researcher at the Museum of Modern Art, Samantha Ozer.

Get to Know: Japanese Designer Yuko Nishikawa