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Ikigai Spotlight Series: Ikuko Iwamoto, Japanese Artist based in London, UK.

Ikuko: My high school art teacher shattered my dreams...

Ikigai is a concept that is very much integral to Japanese culture. The word 'Ikigai' can be roughly translated to your 'reason for being', or purpose and is not confined to the ‘Venn Diagram’. More on its authentic definition can be explored here.

While Ikigai is essential to one's well-being, the true beauty is that it does not have a fixed equation and can change over time.

At Mogami, we would like to highlight this nuance with our 'Ikigai Spotlight Series'.

This month's featured guest is Ikuko Iwamoto (52), IKUKO Iwamoto Japanese Artist based in London, UK.

Tell us your story.

I was born in Shimotsu-cho, Kainan City, Wakayama, Japan. At the age of 5, I drew a picture of a hen, and my nursery teacher told me I was a genius. I believed it wholeheartedly. I aspired to become a painter and planned to apply to an art university. However, my high school art teacher shattered my dreams by telling me I lacked talent.

Despite attending drawing lessons 2-3 times a week, I gave up on my passion and changed my focus for university applications. In the end, I only got accepted to a backup junior college. There, in the Applied Arts History program, I discovered ceramics and met a mentor who was a professor at the time and an expert in ceramics.

It was this mentor who suggested I study abroad in England.

When was the first time you remember coming across the concept of Ikigai?

I believe it was during my college years. I wanted to pursue a fulfilling career, so I decided to become a ceramics apprentice.

What has been your personal journey with your Ikigai(s) or reason for being?

Ikigai is not something I chose myself, but rather something that somehow led me to it.

How does your life today reflect your authentic self and life priorities?

I feel most like my authentic self when I'm spending time with my children or working alone in the studio.

Can you walk us through a time in your life when you felt lost? What ideas or tools helped you overcome this period?

During middle school, I struggled with interpersonal relationships and turned to reading the Heart Sutra (a Buddhist scripture that teaches the concept of emptiness and the interdependence of all things). Looking back now, I wonder if there could have been different solutions if there had been online resources like we have today. In the advanced age of quantum mechanics, similarities between Buddhism and the quantum world have been proven. When contemplating the nature of the self, the Heart Sutra seems to be incredibly close to the truth. At the same time, I find myself pondering how much my teenage self truly understood the Heart Sutra.

What would be your advice to anyone struggling to live a life of Ikigai?

Set aside the busy routines of daily life and make time to clear your mind. The answers often reveal themselves just before bedtime or upon waking in the morning.

What does being a Japanese Ceramics Artist mean to you?

Pottery uses only clay as a medium, and moreover, as a Japanese person who happened to come to London, I don't feel like I appeal much as a Japanese ceramic artist. I don't even use traditional Japanese glazes or techniques like throwing on a potter's wheel.

If I were to say something, perhaps it's because I believe that everything has a divine presence and I handle or create things with gratitude. This might not be unique to Japanese people; it could be something everyone does. It seems to be done unconsciously rather than consciously, so I believe the environmental factors of growing up in Japan are at play.


Saori's reflection

Ikuko-san's advice to "set aside the busy routines of daily life and make time to clear your mind" deeply resonates with me and can be a powerful tool for our community to implement in their daily lives this week. Even just five minutes of doing this can make a world of difference.

While I will unfortunately be unable to view Ikuko-san's craft during London Craft Week (13-19 May 2024) as I will be in Japan, I highly recommend that my London community take advantage of this beautiful opportunity to nourish your creative soul.

At Mogami, we understand that expressing your creativity is essential for your well-being and something we must prioritize. How will you nourish your creativity this week? Let me know.


Do you want to learn more?

Join Ikuko-san as she showcases her craft at Jay Blade presents "Craftworks" during London Craft Week. Don't miss out on her incredible creations.

Visit for more details.


You can follow and support Ikuko-san and her artwork below.

Instagram: @ikukoikik


What did this story bring up for you? Comment below.


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