Fiber artist Tina Koyama. Photo credit: Judith van Praag.
Fiber artist Tina Koyama. Photo credit: Judith van Praag.

On First Thursday September 3rd, fiber artist Tina Koyama celebrates a first showing of “My 50th Year” at the Toshiro Kaplan Studios. Together with three other recipients of the 2009 PONCHO/Pratt Artist In Residence Scholarships she shows work created during and thanks to the residency.

A University of Washington Grad with a Masters degree in Creative Writing, Koyama embarked on her artistic career only seven years ago. Believe it or not, the successful artist’s search for the imaginary started with missing earrings. Her sister-in-law wished for a matching pair to go with a necklace.

“We bought beads, and I put the jewelry together in no time,” Koyama says. After initial reluctance to give in to “the bead bug,” a course at the University of Washington opened her eyes to the possibilities of glass seed beads, and eventually she earned a Certificate in Fiber Arts from U.W. Extension.

In September of 2002 a photo of her first free style watchband was published on the cover of a bead magazine, and instant recognition followed. She now is a nationally renowned teacher. Lucky Seattleites only have to go to Fusion Beads in Wallingford for her classes.

The necessity to find an ultimate way to exhibit her tiny three-dimensional abstract pieces, led to the hand-sewn creation of amorphous, inside/out shapes made of dyed cord, rope, or string, that nest her seed bead objects.

After her mother’s death last January Koyama laid her hands on the journals she kept while in Junior High. Not wanting to share any of the “really bad” writing with anybody, she tore up the pages and used them in collages. The Pratt residency allowed her to experiment with different media, such as printing. Therefore it’s not surprising that words and two-dimensional imagery found their way into her new body of work. Snippets of text, the meaning (out of context) fleeting, are still readable. Pasted on boxy canvasses and painted in translucent colors her younger self’s words form the background to small herring bone weavings of red beads, squares mounted in odd numbers, or photo essays; a new language.

On her 49th birthday Tina Koyama started with the first of 366 pieces (it was a leap year) of tiny woven beadwork inventions —created one per day— intended for “My 50th Year.” Mounted on a 20” x 60” stretched canvas the resulting assemblage shows similarities with a needlepoint sampler, made to show-off the needle worker’s ability and craft.

“Read” from left to right, just like western script, the viewer will, upon close inspection, discover series executed in a certain color palette, or along a design concept. The 366 pieces form a memory bank for the artist. Each tiny object is a still from a moment in time. Thus, a series in purples and fuchsia is reminiscent of a bracelet in the same color scheme. There are bead objects woven from a tube she carries while traveling, and squares created when her aim was to capture a miniscule section of a Gustav Klimt painting.

“Design” is not quite the correct word for Koyama’s artistic approach. With a profound dislike of drafting graphics, she says she’s at her most creative when the meditative nature of repetitive movement —stringing bead after bead—takes her into a mental state she likens to Jazz improvisation. Listening to music helps to reach that stage.

“I love Keith Jarret, he’s the genius of Improv,” she says.

Koyama adds she never has a picture in her mind when she sets out to create her mysteriously shaped miniatures.

“I strive to be Keith Jarrett,” she says laughing out loud.

“My 50th Year” is on view in the Artists In Residence group exhibition on September 3, from 6 to 8 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 12 – 5 p.m. or by appointment at the Pratt Gallery at Tashiro Kaplan Studios, 306 S Washington Street, Suite 102 Seattle. Tina Koyama and other Pratt residents will present a slideshow on Thursday, September 10, at 6 p.m. at Pratt Fine Arts Center, 1902 S. Main Street in Seattle. For more information call (206) 328-2200..

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