The AJS-Q’s newest Corporate member has a very special connection with Japan

paper boat press, a ceramic studio run by Kylie Johnson, has been in operation since 1995 in Brisbane.

And in 2012 she set up her first bricks and mortar store in Ashgrove, where she has a full range of her work for sale. The working studio is located behind the gallery in the building. The gallery has hosted over 20 exhibitions, including Japanese potters Momoko and Tetsuya Otani in 2014 and 2018 and Aya Yamanobe also in 2018.

In 2019 her sister Tiffany helped to build onto the business by creating a workshop space, The Crescent Room. A space for anyone to hire for meetings, community groups or workshops.

Kylie and Tiffany have visited Japan, together and separately, many times over the years. Their time in Japan has ignited in them – Kylie as a ceramic artist, writer and gallery owner, and Tiffany as a collector and book creator – an even greater passion for the handmade.

Over the last few years they have taken a number of bespoke tours to Kyoto with a distinct focus on small galleries and local makers. “It doesn’t seem to matter that we don’t speak the same language (though we try), share the same traditions, nor create the same kind of work – a mutual love of the handmade is our language. Like us, they see value in beauty and believe that the maker’s role is relevant and, indeed, essential in this fast-paced world.”

They grew up in an Australian house filled with handmade wares, pottery and art from local makers. They speak of their parents instilling in them an understanding that the maker’s hand creates something to be loved and celebrated; that an object created by hand offers a connection to something more, something real yet intangible. They taught us that each piece, be it made of clay or wood, glass or cloth, has a story that is worthy of attention, and knowing that story makes life just a little more beautiful.

Travelling together, exploring Japan, has strengthened their bond as sisters. It has given them a shared hobby of sorts, despite our different career paths, lifestyles and tastes. Sharing this with their tour guests has been a real joy. However, they find it a place of such peace and beauty, a place for their own time of reflection and quiet.

Last year, they spent two months travelling across Japan photographing and interviewing makers and gallery owners for an upcoming book to be published by Thames and Hudson. Titled ‘Utsuwa – Japanese objects for everyday use’, which will be launched later in 2020 (more details to follow). “It has been an honour making this book, it feels like the perfect combination of our love for the country, the people and their traditions and the work they make. We can’t wait to share it with you”.