Anna-Wili Highfield: Paying homage to Japanese craftsmanship

Highfield’s sculptures explore the energy, movement and physical character of different creatures. For the Lexus Design Pavilion, she has created a 2.5 meter tall horse bust, captured mid-gallop. It’s her biggest sculpture yet, and its predominant use of ceramic pays homage to Japanese traditions of craftsmanship. 

Much like the Lexus commitment to Takumi, or skilful craftsmanship,  Highfield believes in the continual refinement of her work. At time of interview, her bust was still in progress, with the artist stating that she might still add more materials to her unique piece. 


Anna-Wili Sculpture Lexus Design Pavilion

Tell us about your artistic practice and what you’ll be creating for this year’s Lexus Design Pavilion. 

I create sculptures that capture a spirit or character through forms and spaces. For the Lexus Design Pavilion, I am making a 2.5 metre tall horse bust from a variety of materials but with an economy of form.

My chosen materials so far are ceramic, steel and brass. I may add to these as the creation process evolves. I feel the employment of ceramic for the horse is appropriate to Lexus as a Japanese company given the history of ceramic crafts in Japan.

How much work has gone into your bust, and how did you decide on the final design? Any key influences? 

My intention is to create a piece that feels spirited and alive, yet material in form. 

This piece is very process-led, in that every stage will dictate the next step and how the form feels and looks after firing it in the kiln. Every step is open to change until the last moment. I’ve done this by sectioning the ceramic form so that nothing is fixed in shape. 

[As for inspiration], I spent my childhood drawing horses on the back of race tickets. My dad loves the horses, so there is a nostalgia to the event for me. 

How does your artistic practice or philosophy tie in with the Lexus commitment to craftsmanship, or Takumi? 

The philosophy of Takumi ties in beautifully with my own feelings about work. I believe in hard work and continual making as an artist. My ideas are often led by the process and I’m of the mind that when inspiration visits, I want it to find me working. 

If you could have visitors to the Lexus Design Pavilion take one thing away from your sculpture, what would it be? 

I hope that people come away from viewing this piece with a feeling that it was alive, and that it transported them somewhere. I really want them to feel its movement and spirit. 

Lexus Design Pavilion

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