Artist Lynne Yamaguchi’s “Absolute True Decision”by Ben McNitt on Oct. 26, 2009, under arts
“THE INSTANT I STARTED WOODTURNING, I KNEW I’D MADE THE RIGHT CHOICE,” LYNNE YAMAGUCHI SAYS. “It was the absolute most true decision I could have made.”
That was seven years ago. Yamaguchi was stuck in a high pressure, deadline driven job that she felt was draining her life away. When she asked herself what would make her happy, the answer came instantly: woodturning.
Woodturning? She’d never done it, didn’t know how. No tools, no shop, no training.
She quit the job, took some turning classes at Woodcraft on North Oracle and began the pursuit of her dream.
Today Yamaguchi is an accomplished artist, a member of the newly opened Flux Gallery and the creator of bowls, vessels and wood sculpture that convey a sense of beauty, simplicity and inner calm.
She’s also enthusiastically happy, as I found on a recent visit to her converted garage shop, chock-a-block with two turning lathes, a band saw and drill press, wood blanks, cut sections from whole trees, sawdust and projects in progress.
“I’m Japanese-American,” she explained. “My upbringing was very much infused with Japanese culture and esthetics. The shape of vessels, like rice bowls, from my childhood is part of my sense memory and is deeply a part of my hand.
“I am attracted to containers, bowls, vessels, boxes. I like to hold them, stroke them, just touch them.”
Her approach to a new project with a fresh blank of wood “is very much a dialogue,” she explains. “I think about what’s in there, what’s to be revealed. Sometimes I’m right. Sometimes it has something in it that makes me change my idea. Flaws become features.”
She enjoys working in pear – “such a sensuous wood” – in cottonwood – an untypical species for turners – and in walnut. “We’re really lucky here in Arizona to have mesquite,” she says, “with its richness of color and complex character.” She sees wood as a metaphor for people, with the record of survival showing in a person’s face just as it does in the grain and texture of wood.
Yamaguchi’s pieces range in price from as low as $30, up to $1,800 for her hollow formed In Her Dream nestled among black stones, a sculpture that is a perfect island of peace. Making ends meet can still be a struggle, she says, particularly in the current economic downturn where the market for art is one of the first to suffer.
To remain viable, Yamaguchi became a founding member of the Flux Gallery, a cooperative inspired by painter/sculptor/photographer Steven Derks to give artists control over their own marketing efforts. The Gallery, featuring the work of nine local artists, is located at Plaza Palomino, 2960 N. Swan Rd., Suite 136. You’ll see more posts on them here in the weeks ahead.
Day to day, Yamaguchi remains active in her shop, turning perhaps two small pieces in one session, holding her dialogue with wood. “It feels,” she says, “like I was born to do it.”