Koji Hoashi likes to challenge himself.
The Federation University SMB campus artist-in-residence specialises in creating exquisite traditional Japanese pots and bowls, and is a prime example of why Ballarat is recognised as a UNESCO Creative City.
However, the high artistic degree of difficulty involved in the glazing and kiln processes means he’s never quite sure how they are going to turn out.
“What I do is not done by many people. You need to keep investigating and keep testing to see if it will work or not,” Koji says.
“I look at the results and then I have to find out what is the next thing I need to do to make it better next time.”
Koji is inspired both by the colour red and Zen philosophies.
“I was taught ceramic art is not only created by the artist but also by the people who use it. Only fifty per cent is created by the artist. The rest is created by the user, by where they put it and how they use it”
Born in Oita, Japan, Koji trained in art education, primary school teaching and music at university.
“I loved art as a subject. Everyone enjoyed making things. They would laugh and smile in class, compared to subjects like maths that were too serious.”
At 18, Koji started making his own works.
“All sorts of different ideas started overflowing in my mind. Endless ideas would come to my brain and I couldn’t control it. I started making lots and lots of sculpture work as well as pots.
“I wanted to become a teacher so I did print making, drawings, graphic design, traditional Japanese paintings as well as pottery and sculpture.”
In 1984, Koji won the Governor’s Awards for Sculpture, creating a whimsical life-size bronze sculpture of one of his friends which was placed in Boston Park, Oita.
Shortly after he applied to universities in Australia and America, keen to learn more about other cultures.
“I came to Melbourne and studied just English for a year.”
He chose the then Ballarat College of Advanced Education to study ceramics before doing his master’s degree at the Victoria College, Prahran (Victorian School of Arts).
To earn an income, Koji taught Japanese every Saturday morning to local high school students and adults at the then Ballarat North Technical School before becoming a full time teacher at the Arch cluster of primary schools which included Urquhart Park, Wendouree, Haddon and Alfredton.
He then became a university lecturer in Japanese language and international studies at Ballarat University College (now Federation University).
“While working as a lecturer, I still used my creative skills for everything. I loved making new course materials, songs, and games for my students. In the classroom, I would use drawings to teach because I found that students learnt faster.”
Eventually, though, Koji realised he had to follow his heart.
“I decided I’d like to pursue what I really, really wanted to do and that was to become a full-time artist.”
Koji’s work is available to purchase from the Art Gallery of Ballarat shop.