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Visiting artist views clay sculpting as 'conversation'

By Caitlin Kupiec
On April 17, 2013


Never disrupt a conversation between an artist and his clay. You might be disrupting the
creation of a masterpiece.
The Coalition for Ceramic Designers will be hosting visiting artist, Kensuke Yamada, 9
a.m. Wednesday in Upton Hall 129 and at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in Bulger South for a live
demonstration of his art.
Guests will also hear a lecture on where he came from and his journey to becoming a ceramic
"To me, clay is conversation in 3D, 2D and fire," Yamada said. "Clay dies when it dries, and clay
comes from the ground, and is formed into 3D sculpture with my hands. In other words, I think I
am having an experience of making nothing into something.
"Clay is a great material that came from the ground to talk with me and collaborate with my
thoughts. I always enjoy my conversations with clay."
Yamada first came to the United States as a foreign exchange student, and he has been
"playing" with clay for the past 10 years. He started taking a ceramics class at a community
college, becoming obsessed with the history of figurative clay sculpture and how people used or
presented their clay sculptures in history.
Yamada's creative process is about taking a given conversation with clay, creating a figure out
of it, and ultimately giving life to this new piece of art.
"My figurative work can be about you, someone [else], or even me," Yamada said. "Clay,
texture, and glaze makes a figure come alive, and it is very personal. Warmth, organic surfaces,
and texture all make me think of life in clay.
"In the process of making a clay figure, it is most important to me to make the figure come alive
at the end."
Yamada said one of his favorite things about ceramics is how glazing becomes like painting.
He fires his work multiple times, hoping to add depth and richness, as a painter would to a
According to Francesca D'Angelo, the president of the Coalition for Ceramic Designers, the club
was able to get Yamada as a visiting artist through USG and the mandatory student activity fee.
The members of the coalition voted on which artist they felt they could learn the most from, and
Yamada was chosen.
"We chose [him] because of his glazing and surface techniques, as well as the forms of his
figurative sculptures," D'Angelo said.
Yamada takes inspiration from all different walks of life. He is inspired by life itself, and creates
a meaningful work of art through his inspirations.
"I draw inspiration and influence from universal sources, but some are inspired by my own
existence and everyday life as well," he said. "I capture moments from daily life and translate
them into thought-provoking works."
Yamada looks at ceramics as a way to communicate to people as well. He tries to convey a
message he could not convey anyway else.
"Choice of materials are the same as choice of languages," he said. "For example, I speak
Japanese and English and it gives me opportunity to communicate with a bigger audience than
just by knowing one language."
Yamada will showcase his talents to Buff State and said he is willing to answer all questions any
inspiring artists have.
"I took ceramics in high school and have recently started to get back into it," said senior Kristen
Lewandowski. "I'm looking forward to his visit, and to see him create in person, and observe all
of his techniques with texture, form, and especially glazing."
The Coalition of Ceramic Designers is grateful and excited for Yamada's visit and cannot wait to
see what he has in store with his demonstrations and lecture.
"He's an artist to watch for and we are extremely lucky that he is going to demo and lecture for
us," D'Angelo said.
Caitlin Kupiec can be reached by email at

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