Lucie Rie is one of the fortunate grandes dames of design whose contribution was recognised whilst she was still alive. Indeed the Austrian-born, London-based ceramicist was actually made a dame in 1991 for a lifetime’s service to the arts.

21-21

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Yet, barely a decade after her death, her name is far from a household name amongst the design literate today. Perhaps this is due to nothing more than the fact that ceramics are a relatively niche area, falling between art and design. We’re sensing a pleasing surge of interest in her work though, which a new exhibition at Issey Miyake’s 21_21 will bolster.
The exhibition is called U-Tsu-Wa, which means vessels, and brings together around 100 works of Lucie Rie, together with pieces by Scottish ceramicist Jennifer Lee and German woodworker Ernst Gamperl. Miyake enlisted the help of Tadao Ando for the exhibition design and, as you’d imagine with such a pairing of creative heavyweights, the result is surreal and spectacular. Centre stage is a gigantic pool of water on which Rie’s ceramics appear to float, highlighting the delicate fragility of her ceramics.
Miyake is something of a Lucie Rie fanatic and this is the second time he’s showed her work in Tokyo. He first discovered her twenty years ago by accident, stumbling across a book about her in a London bookshop. After visiting her studio he was hooked – ‘upon entering, meeting her and seeing some of her work I sensed ‘this is what it means to create’. I remember feeling energised as well as inspired’.