Our May Artist of the Month adds a touch of whimsy to her beautiful yet functional ceramics, with a mix of playful animals and idioms. Specializing in sgraffito, a detailed underglaze decoration technique, Artist Yoko Sekino Bove’s work has been included in prestigious exhibitions nationally and internationally and in a number of craft books and periodicals.
Read on to learn more about Yoko and see more of her incredible work.
To me, one of the roles of the artist is to educate, to show people who we are and what we are (our heritage, history, and society)…
What is your artistic background?
My bachelor’s degree is for Graphic Design, and I worked as a commercial designer before finding a new path paved with clay. That experience came in handy in designing my ceramic work.
What are your favorite materials to work with/types of items to make?
Porcelain is my cup of tea. I work on a pottery wheel most of the time, but when I am at a residency, I like to challenge myself with hand building which can require more time. My work is in the category of functional ceramics, but I consider the function as a design element, not the goal for my work. People can decide what category my work belongs.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
From conversations with people, stories, idioms, and other verbal communications. My pieces are for people to enjoy, the inspirations should come from them as well.
What is your creative process like?
I start each piece with a title or the concept first. Then organize design elements such as the function, scale, colors, motifs, and styles to construct the piece by sketching. Some pieces take years of trials and errors to mature, some pieces hit the bull’s eye in the first shot. There are many “in-progress” designs waiting for their turn in my studio.
What is the most rewarding thing about your practice?
When people tell me how they enjoy my work. It gives me joy, reassurance, and inspiration for the next pieces.
And what challenges do you face as an artist?
The biggest challenge at this point is how to keep running. I have been working with clay for the last 27 years, it feels like a long marathon with many ups and downs. My goal is to create work that can make people happy, and I can be proud of, but the longer I run, the further the goal keeps moving away from me. It is not easy to keep motivating myself and working in the studio constantly, I am grateful for the people who gave me opportunities for residencies and exciting projects.
Outside of your practice, do you do any other creative activities/what are your interests?
I enjoy traveling, which has been difficult in the last two years. I hope we can pick up our adventures where we dropped off very soon.
What role does the artist have in society?
I believe we can offer so much to society, but what people need/want keeps changing. To me, one of the roles of the artist is to educate, to show people who we are and what we are (our heritage, history, and society), as well as exploring how we came to this point based on what our ancestors established with their ingenuity and technological advancements.
What is art/craft to you?
Boy, I can write a book or two about it! It’s over-lapping with the last question, about what role craft artists and our products play in the world. The idea of art/craft has been constantly changing, and with the social media and digital technology, the expansion of the definition in art and craft will be even more accelerated. I myself am happily trapped in the simple category of ceramic art with clay and fire, but the answer to this question keeps expanding every day.
Tell us about your favorite artist or artists that inspires you.
My long list starts with my husband and jewelry/metal artist, Jim Bové. The next is my ceramic mentor, Malcolm Davis. Malcolm has shown me how to keep innovating and learning, taking risks, and pursuing one’s own goal, like he did with his own Shino work. His devotion still inspires me.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with everyone.
You can find a selection of Yoko’s work in our Store at 5645 Butler Street.
You can also learn more about Yoko at www.yokosekinobove.com.