Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lunch with Yuko Shimizu

We had Yuko Shimizu over for lunch at the studio yesterday, Yuko has been so busy we've had to postpone our lunch several times. Not only with the business of illustration but also in a new move to her new apartment, fortunately as she says it was only 12 blocks away from where she was renting and still a decent commute to her studio in midtown. And not too far a subway ride to our studio. Her first question upon arriving, would we like her to remove her shoes? We asked why and she replied "I always remove my shows, I'm Japanese". We must add this custom, the floors would be a lot shinier.

The first part of our meeting was discussing the work of the designer Marcel Wanders, new to me but she had already heard of his work but was not familiar with his new book I'd bought. I'd seen this wonderful profile on him on Ovation and became an immediate fan, in fact one of his vase trio is on my birthday wish list already.

I have to say I'm amazed at Yuko's story, growing up in Japan she came to New York with her parents when she was in middle school. She was one year shy of beginning her English lessons in school there so there was a language barrier when she arrived--which she had to overcome. Then after four years it was back to Japan where she finished her education, attended college--a advertising and marketing major and after graduating she started working in a public relations firm. Keep in mind she was not studying art, wasn't doing art commercially, she was working in an office. In speaking with her you can tell of the frustration of her job and the desire to do art. So what does she do? She picks up and moves back to New York and starts classes at the School of Visual Arts, having her college credits she was able to skip ahead two years and then onto the graduate program and in the end starting a very successful career as an illustrator. She traded an office for a studio and hasn't looked back.

Asked about her artistic influences at home, her mother was quite the seamstress and her dad evolved into a highly acclaimed calligrapher following his retirement from the corporate world. Looking at her work you can see the influences. And she's very interested in graphic design and design in general. Working on her new digs she's bent on saving up her money to buy the real designer thing rather than the rip-off.

Now she's back teaching at SVA, she's a tough taskmaster and tries to instill the sense of the real world of illustration in her classes. And she's always traveling whether it's for pleasure or to do a workshop or speak with student and professional groups.

Her exuberence is catching and she's a great storyteller which is also evident in her work. And she's downright funny, we were all in stitches!

Talking about work, with the new mortgage she's cut back her studio space giving up her large wall for drawing we'd seen in her feature in 3x3 but she says that it's time for a change anyway and has started drawing smaller. If she needs a large wall space, there's always her new apartment.

Our conversation continued over mealtime which had a vegetarian twist with a chickpea ragout, salad with homemade vinaigrette and the vegan chocolate cake we'd first tried out on Sean Qualls capped off with espresso. Then it was her back to her studio and us to ours. We were delighted to have our visitor over and get to know her a bit more on a more personal level.

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