From fashion to ceramics: Japanese designer Takaaki Sakaguchi

Takaaki Sakaguchi always wants to see his fingerprints in the clay.

The ex-fashion designer was used to dealing with fabrics and designing lines of clothing, but it was ceramics that brought a spark of creativity to his life.

Sakaguchi started his creative career in fashion, in Osaka, Japan. He worked as a designer and assistant for the fashion house Koshino, spending time at events like Paris Fashion Week. Eventually, he made the move to Aotearoa in 1998 and started his own fashion brand, Sakaguchi. 

Designer and sculptor Takaaki Sakaguchi. Image: Supplied

But over the years, Sakaguchi found himself drifting away from fashion and the pressure of the industry. 

“Each season I needed to make a new style,” he says. On top of designing new lines, there was also the pressure of retail and running a company. 

He started searching for a different pace of life and a different way of creating. 

So, he turned to ceramics. He was living in Christchurch at the time and joined the Canterbury Pottery Association in 2017. The association offered classes and a wealth of knowledge through their tutors, which appealed to Sakaguchi.  

“You can do anything with ceramics,” Sakaguchi says, “You can make any shape, any colour." 

“I wanted to do the same in fashion, but the pressure was getting too much.” 

He started learning different pottery techniques and found he had a natural spark for creating with clay.

Some of Sakaguchi's ceramic work. Sakaguchi started making ceramics when he joined the Canterbury Pottery Association. Image: Supplied

He usually takes about two or three months to finish a piece, sketching or drawing it out before making it, However, one of his newest pieces, Hilo, took him a bit longer than that – and has been nominated as a finalist in the Portage Ceramic Awards.  

The Portage Ceramic Awards are run annually and celebrate the diversity of contemporary clay practices in Aotearoa. Thirty finalists have been selected out of 200 entries, with the Director of the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt, Karl Chitham (Ngā Puhi, Te Uriroroi) with the winner announced on November 25. 

Chitham said all the works represent an incredible diversity of approaches with overarching themes like COVID, language and climate change.

They are a mix of fun, surprising and in some cases really quirky, which I think will change people’s opinions about the possibilities of contemporary ceramics," he says. 

All the finalists will also have their work exhibited at Te Uru in Titirangi from November 25 to early March next year.  

For Sakaguchi’s part, his entry, Hilo, took a long time to create. Normally, he takes between two and months to create a piece, but Hilo took more than that.  

Sakaguchi's work, Hilo, which has been selected as a finalist in the Portage Ceramic Awards. Image: Studio La Gonda curtesy of Te Uru

Each piece of his sculpture was carefully dried, pieced together, and finished in a traditional Japanese style, using a Shino glaze. 

“There’s also a lot of detail on the surface,” Sakaguchi says. 

The outside of Hilo is done in a way to make it seem like a very natural surface, contrasted with the simplicity of the pottery inside. 

The inspiration for the piece came from a trip he took to Hawaii with his parents. He was struck by the volcanoes he saw – the life in them and the colours of the earth.  

This is the second time Sakaguchi has been nominated as a finalist in the Portage Ceramic Awards. His last nomination was in 2021. 

- Asia Media Centre