Demonstrating Not Elevating the Value of Clay | King Houndekpinkou | Episode 677


King Houndekpinkou | Episode 677

Born in Montreuil (France), in 1987, King Houndekpinkou is a Franco-Beninese ceramist based in Paris. As the face of a rising generation of artists from the African diaspora exploring global possibilities, King works in France, Japan and Benin, while exhibiting his work internationally.


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Why not be “just” a functional potter?

Because that would be a waste, you know. I’ve got so many things to say. I have accumulated so many ideas and thoughts that I have to express and put out there in the language of clay. So I couldn’t “just be” and that’s me, you know. I couldn’t “just be”. As you have seen, you will ask me a question and I will start answering and it will take me somewhere, because I have so many things to say. So many things to say through the material and the material again is so rich so that would be a shame not to use it fully and take advantage of all it has to offer.

Does your answer to that imply that functional potters are doing a waste or do they still have a precious and valuable involvement in the ceramic world?

Ah, they do! I mean, I am talking about me, my vision. As much as I try, I just cannot. Okay, functional potters have this incredible ability and discipline that I don’t have. They have super super high skills that I just don’t have. I wouldn’t be able to make hundred cups in an hour or two hours or whatever and keep steady like that and make the works the same, you know, over and over again. I cannot do that, but I praise that and commend that. I think it’s amazing. I think it is amazing, but I know my soul, I know my heart, and I know myself and I cannot do that. But this is amazing, making functional works requires discipline, hard work, and I praise that very, very, very, much.

How does the viewer of your work discern the message of your work?

When I explain or when they see the work? Or their reaction when they see the work?

Let’s do it this way then. When they see the work, how do they discern it? And then the follow-up question is when you explain it does that bring it into the proper understanding of the work?

Well, when people see the work there is always this kind of tension, it’s funny. Just like when you first talked about the work and what you think of the work, it’s always the same thing. Okay, this looks like a vase, like a vessel, but it has something else, kind of sculptural and it’s beautiful and attractive but at the same time I don’t know if I can touch it. I’d like to touch it but actually I don’t know if I want to touch it. That sort of tension, that’s always there. That’s always there. And then when people see the gold they are like, Wow, gold. The gold always creates that sort of like reaction to gold. Wow!  And then people often mention, very often, actually 90 percent of the time, nature. People always say, Your work looks like something from nature. Either a sea urchin or sea creatures or anything that relates to nature, animals and things, people say that. And to me that is one of the greatest compliments ever. Ever. I feel so much joy when people say that because that means I’ve completed my mission.

Is that how then the animism then comes into your work? Do you say that you want it to have a like to that? 

Exactly. Exactly, to be able to make works where there’s enough life where people are able to complete the work with their own imagination, that means there is a communication between the piece and the person. And if there’s communication it means there is life in both elements, you know, and there’s life going on. But obviously I’ve always wanted to infuse life into the work and make sure that the work has a life of their own and I can communicate that.

So what I hear you saying is that as far as you are concerned it is also okay that you have your message, it’s also okay for your viewer to bring a meaning or a message of their own to the work?

Oh, yes! Also. After the work is made, well I made it but it’s no longer mine. I mean it is no longer mine, it is a gift to the world. I made it but it’s like your child, you let it go, it has a life on its own and if it’s acquired by someone the piece will live with someone else and will have another life, I am okay. As long as there’s been something communicated, something said, people have felt something, and mostly life and emotions then that’s it. Whether people like the work or don’t like the work, it’s good, they felt something. And that’s good enough, you know. That’s good enough and if it made them think about their daily life or how they use cups daily, then even better.

With all the love and care you put into your work, do you ever resent having to give it away? Give it into the world, whether someone buys it or it goes into a gallery?

No, I do this peacefully. Very peacefully because I think for me I know that I can create other works, other babies, and for me that gift of being able to communicate and create with clay is already very big and very huge. And I have no problems of letting pieces go. I have had my fun with them and now it is for them to have their own fun with their new owners and just discover the world. I have no problem at all with that. But I do keep some pieces with me though because I am making my own collection of my own work, which I think people should do.


Instagram: @king.houndekpinkou

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