Yoko has been working magic with her glazing brush in the Morris & James workshop for over 17 years now - but despite this, she says she still learns something new every day. “The first year is just learning all the basics, and then from the second year, you know what you’re doing. Every day is just learning, learning - and before I realized it, a few years had gone by! Every day there is something to learn.”
When she first started, Yoko found the work really challenging, because the color of the glaze changes markedly after it has been fired. “So when I was decorating, I couldn’t tell what I was doing at all!” she remembers. “It was only a few days later, when the piece got fired, that I could tell what I’d done.”
Originally from Japan, Yoko met her Kiwi husband here in New Zealand three decades ago. Initially, they moved back to Japan, where Yoko worked as a women's fashion designer and had their family. But when it came time to think about schools, the couple decided that they wanted to give their children an NZ education, returning to Aotearoa and settling in Snells Beach. At first, she missed Japan. “Friends, and food, and family. It took a long time to get used to. But every time now I go back to Japan I miss New Zealand so much!”
Her children were still young when she began her work at Morris & James, but she remembers thinking at the time that if she turned the job down, the opportunity might never come her way again - so Yoko took it with both hands. “There’s not many jobs like this around here!” she laughs and says that 17 years later, she wouldn’t change a thing. “I really like this job, so I can’t leave! I just enjoy it.”
Jacs Connelly is the head designer at the factory, but all the hand decorators have the opportunity to come up with new ideas and designs, and Yoko has recently had one of hers picked up - the beautiful Nikau trio, a wall design made of three separate panels. They are simple yet detailed, and have an ethereal, peaceful quality to them, reflecting the inspiration she finds in nature and NZ’s native trees and plants.
The Nikau design has also been decorated onto a variety of pots, which are on display in the showroom at the moment. They’re just beautiful!