Artist Profile: Gordon K. Uyehara Interviewed by Julia Rai

indexMetal clay artist Gordon K. Uyehara has been a well-known presence in the metal clay community for as long as I can remember. He was always one of the first people to offer help and advice to newbies through the Yahoo metal clay forum which he also helped moderate. When I was setting up the Metal Clay Academy website in 2007, Gordon was one of the first artists I approached for permission to use images of his work on the site and he was instrumental in helping to get the project going.

e616081b3da1c51c74fa9dc2f9b82910The first time I actually met him was at a conference in the UK in 2008. Taking a class with Gordon is a study in clean and neat working! My workspace is always chaotic but my over-riding impression of watching Gordon’s demonstrations was how cleanly he worked. He is a quiet, thoughtful artist and teacher and being in his presence was a lovely, calming and supportive experience.

Born and brought up in Honolulu, Hawaii, Gordon lives there with his elderly mother. I asked him about his first memory of being creative. “I painted a War of the Worlds spaceship in kindergarten. Well, at least I remember doing it,” he said. “I discovered metal clay in the summer of 2002. I thought it was interesting and had potential.” He went on, “The first things I made were crude pendants.”

workdeskI asked Gordon whether he has a studio. “Not really. I have a desk in the middle of the family room though the mess seems to spread to other areas.” He laughed. “I’m not very organized.” Having seen Gordon work, I find that hard to believe! It looks pretty organised to me. “Recently, I haven’t been spending as much time creating.”

Gordon’s influences are mainly nature and science-fiction art and anyone who has seen much of his work can see this influence coming through. “I am fascinated in the creatures around us, some more than others. I’ve always had that interest. Now that I am older, I can indulge myself without judgement.”

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I always like to find out about the creative process that other artists use and I asked Gordon how he comes up with his designs. “It starts as an idea and then a sketch. The plan comes from the sketch, i.e., the order of assembly and templates. I break it down into steps like a computer program.” Many of his pieces look very complex. “They don’t seem that complex to me,” he explained. “I only attempt things I think are possible. Sometimes I get frustrated during the making process though. You have an idea about what needs to happen and in what order. At certain times you need to reassess the process and change the order to a completed project. The path is not always what you expected.” I can normally recognise a piece of Gordon’s work and I asked him about his style. “I’m not sure I have a style. People say I do. I don’t think about it.”

Gordon combines a number of other techniques with his metal clay work. “Just little things here and there. A little fusing, soldering, filing, riveting, wire wrapping, keum boo, resin, etc.” he explained.

I asked Gordon about a piece of his work that is special to him. “I used to have a piece that I liked to wear. Sadly, it was lost some time ago. This is the only picture I have of it.”

alienpetspotI know people would love to take a class with Gordon so I asked him about teaching. “I used to teach, but not recently. I liked teaching the honu (sea turtle) class.” This is a class I took many years ago with Gordon and I was impressed by his preparation for the class, which included a little bag of templates, simple tools and forms. I hope he goes back to teaching one day.

14441098_10207386947847897_506256747993795967_nAnyone who follows Gordon on Facebook will know the kind of things he likes to do outside of his creative endeavours. “I like to take pictures and play with animals,” he says. The images of his local bird and reptile life are always entertaining.

Gordon sells his work but he’s currently “revamping” so no announcements yet of how that will look. His most recent piece has been a tutorial. “I just created a piece using EZ960 clay for a Creative Fire article,” he explained.

It’s rare to see the same subject matter in multiple pieces made by Gordon. “I am not against revisiting a subject. It is just that there are so many ideas to visit. I have to ask myself do I want to do something new or something I’ve done before. Most of the time I want to do something new.”

I asked him where he sees his work going in the future. “I just want to incrementally improve the quality of my expression,” he explained. “I’m not sure about the future; maybe I’ll produce more conceptual pieces.” Whatever he goes on to do, I’ll be watching as I find his work interesting and beautiful.

See more of Gordon’s work here…
flickr.com/metalclay4u
facebook.com/metalclay4u
twitter.com/metalclay4u
Gordon’s Book “Metal Clay Fusion

MCAM 5.1_Page_34_Image_0001Julia Rai is a teacher, writer and artist working in a variety of media. She is the director of the Metal Clay Academy and runs the Cornwall School of Art, Craft and Jewellery. She finds inspiration in science fiction and fantasy and loves a good story where disbelief can be suspended in favour of wonder. Her practical and ultra-organised side is always vying for attention alongside her creative and messy side. Each is trying hard to learn from the other and live in harmony.

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