Joy Imai: Lifelong potter focuses on soda pottery at her Allied Arts Guild studio

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on January 11, 2012

Potter Joy Imai at her studio in at the Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park

For the past 25 years, visitors to the Allied Arts Guild have been treated to the pottery of Joy Imai. But, as she recounts, the kind of pottery has varied.

“I’ve done four different types,” she explained to visitors at her combination studio/gallery. “But since 2002, my focus has been on soda pottery.”

pottery at Joy Imai's gallery in Menlo ParkWorking with her hands has been important to Joy ever since she was growing up in Hawaii: “My mom, my aunties, and all my cousins, they all made things. You can say I was brought up with the notion of making things.”

In addition to non-soda pottery, she’s done Raku pottery, a type of Japanese pottery that is characterized by hand-molded rather than turned clay, and Mailoica, Italian-style, tin-glazed pottery decorated with bright colors on a white background.

“Because I haven’t done the same body of work since I began, I do have people who are interested in my pieces from different periods,” she said.

When we visited, Joy was working on bamboo holders and said she enjoys all aspects of making pottery: “I like using my hands and working the wheel. Most of the times I’m wearing some of what I’m making. I even like working with fire, although I’m not always comfortable with it because I’m firing at white heat.”

Joy Imai working at her studio in Menlo Park

Much of Joy’s work is square rather than round. “Mostly what I’ve been doing is altering,” she said. “Everything on the wheel is round and I’ve been squaring. Maybe 2012 is when I go back to round. It’s been almost a decade that I’ve been squaring and faceting, and I kind of miss round things.”

Joy’s studio is located toward the rear of the Allied Arts Guild near the Wood Barn.

Photos by Scott R. Kline

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jennifer Updegraff July 19, 2013 at 6:59 am

I am so happy to have found out your name as I am a potter myself and was online looking at birdhouse ideas. I bought an exquisite Japanese type vase from you at your shop in 2000. I recognized the design that seems to be so iconically yours and that I have loved for these years with stylized irises. I had just come back from a month in Japan and fell totally in love with this piece. I used it to do an entirely traditionally designed centerpiece with irises for a traditional Japanese meal for my family. I will never forget how stunning it looked. I have this in my bathroom in every house I live in and have been studying it recently for ideas about soda firing. Thank you! How fun to find you.
Jennifer Gee Updegraff

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