Although born in Gifu Prefecture, Imai has pursued his career from the historic ceramic center of Mino, in the distant area of Gero Onsen. His original focus was on Japanese vessels for daily use, but for the past two decades, has explored the world of non-functional, sculptural work.
Employing the slab method of construction, Imai places each element on hemispherical molds, on top of which he uses bands of layered clay to build the form. The cuts he makes in the connecting layers result in cracks that emphasize the nature of his clay. After bisque firing, he then applies black glaze to the rim before spraying on an iron slip-glaze on both the interior and exterior of the form. The red color resulting from his high-fire oxidation firing is now his hallmark. For cut works, he then rubs brass on the rim to create a metallic effect. Imai’s work focuses on the texture of clay through the use of minimalistic forms and only a few colors. Unlike traditional Japanese ceramics that are designed for viewing close at hand, Imai’s works are created with the expectation that will be seen from afar.