A Letter from Yoichi

Dear Soichiro:

Thanks for having me in the office the other day, I understood that you wanted to do an interview with me, I think it will be easier for me to just write everything down and hopefully that’s okay.

I didn’t come from a background of artisan, the only thing that came close to the world of art and craft for my family and me, was probably that my older sister used to be a talented painter and she had every intention of attending the Tokyo University of the Arts, but my parents were rather up against it so she abandoned the thought. She’s married now.

I never consider myself an ‘artist’ even till this very day, for instance whenever I was introduced by the likes of galleries and so on, I never liked being called an ‘artist’. I enjoyed playing with soil since a young age and if anything, I express myself using soil and ceramics that’s all.

The stance remained unchanged even after turning 45 – the day I quitted my job, I wanted to create things with my owns hands, I wanted to get out of the suits I wore every day, I wasn’t able to do that back when I was a salaryman, being a tiny gear within a massive machine. I would like to pursue what I love within my limited lifetime, at the end of the day it’s not hugely important what I am referred to as, a name is only a name I guess.

At first the idea was to go back to Yamanashi 山梨 where I was born after graduation from the ceramic school, but then I wanted to start my career as a potter somewhere no one knew me and I ended up staying in this studio in Toki 土岐. Here used to be a store that sells ceramics.

That was an extremely hard period, life took its toll, I went through a divorce and my life was turned upside down with not much money left, I didn’t know if I could afford food for the next day and I even had to self-produce because there weren’t any other options, what I ate, what I used, and frankly it remains that way ever since. Looking back it wasn’t easy, I felt like something had been accumulating up to the point when I started pottery, when I was creating it was almost as if the soil was confronting me and I had to respond with everything I had left at that time. Pottery is very different from graphics in the sense that it’s almost impossible to produce the precise colours or shapes that you envisioned, the unexpected hue and texture of the final outcome intrigue me a lot, that’s probably why soil and clay are still my best inspirations.

I didn’t take on the alter-ego ‘Yoko’ until I divorced my first wife, I made the decision because I hated my masculinity side, it was when I realised the identity of ‘Yoko’ that I grew more aware and learnt to be appreciative of the presence of my original self ‘Yoichi’, I think we all have two (genders) sitting within us, I was confused and worried at the beginning when I decided to step out as ‘Yoko’, of how everyone else was going to react and what their opinions were. I think I have been blessed that the people around me and even the audiences of my work are more understanding than I had ever hoped.

I would love to go to England one day, since I was small I had always admired the country, back in the 70s and 80s the culture and the fetish scene there were fascinating, it would be my dream to experience it though it must be quite different now. Other than that I do not have any large-scale life plans, running a small gallery cafe with my partner who is a påtissier, producing everything from scratch on our own, that would be quite content for us.

I think I should stop now thank you once again, it was great working with you this time, all the best with your work in the future too.

Kindest regards

Yoko Yoichi Yajima
29 August 2019


The original interview was conducted in Japanese by Soichiro Kimura 木村 宗一郎 on 29 August 2019

Editor: Axel Wang

Design: Axel Wang

Photography: Stefan Bingham

Translation: Axel Wang & Rui Yasue 安江 塁

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