kumi yamashita was born in japan, just outside of Tokyo and lived there until she came to the states as a high school exchange student.
kumi yamashita : My mother studied fashion and would design and make clothes for me and my two sisters when we were growing up. my father was a sculptor and also a professor of industrial design who had strong interests in traditional Japanese crafts. he could draw very well and when he explained things to me and my two sisters he would take pencil and paper and make simple but beautiful drawings. perhaps they both affected me because ever since I was little I was euphoric as long as I was left alone to draw or make something. in fact, my father named me kumi, which uses two Chinese characters the first character ‘工’ translates as ‘to make or create’ and the second character ‘美’ translates as ‘beauty’. so maybe my dad jinxed me! I was very fortunate in that my parents never once questioned the direction I chose to continue making ‘impractical’ things. instead, they gave me all the support a child could ask for. I never consciously made a decision to become an artist, I just continued doing what I most enjoyed.
kumi yamashita countinued :
“when beginning a new work, I take a lot of time working on sketches to get the composition and scale. this is especially true for my light & shadow sculptures that are site specific. it is very important that the artwork inhabits the space in a balanced and harmonious way. in a shadow, there is very little information for the viewer – it is basically a void. getting it to look and feel natural, and also impart a sense of energy or emotion, can be the biggest challenge. for instance, a hand resting on a knee might look natural when you see a person doing it, but if you reduce it to just shadow / outline, it might look like a mushroom growing on their leg. so to get human gestures to look recognisable and natural in shadow, I start by photographing posed models and then use those photos as reference for my sketches. once I have the composition worked out, the next step is choosing the right light. this is important as different bulbs have different qualities. some lights will cause double shadows to appear, which of course ruins the effect, while others may produce very crisp shadows or blurry ones. so I end up doing a lot of testing to find the correct fixture for each sculpture and application. once I have figured out the shadow’s shape and the light to be used, I can begin crafting the actual sculpture, which might entail carving a single piece of wood or fabricating many different objects to create the effect. in short; I’m constantly experimenting, trying different ways of creating pieces and figuring out what will work the best”.
constellation mana, 2011 , wood panel, brads, single sewing thread and photo by erik maahs
detail of constellation mana, 2011
latest Constellation work which is created by the addition of one single thread to a wood panel with tiny nails.
Warp & Weft work which is created by the subtraction of numerous threads (the white ones) from a single cut of denim. It is entitled Warp & Weft – Mother #2
Here is a recent interview with her done by the nice folks over at designboom: