Keiichi YAMAMOTO - By James Kearney
Today we meet Keiichi Yamamoto who imigrated from Japan in 1967 to live in sunny San Diego, California. Keiichi and his wife Junko, an accomplished multi-media artist specializing in color theory, exclusively produce Tiffany reproductions. Keiichi does the fabrication but together they choose the finest custom glass for each lamp design. Keiichi always relies on Junko's excellent judgment in color choices.
The high standards and fine craftsmanship of Louis Comfort Tiffany have become a 22- year obsession for Keiichi. By researching and respecting the tradition of Tiffany's standards, Keiichi taught himself the art of making museum-quality handcrafted reproductions of Tiffany lamps. His Tiffany lamps are made with the same methods and techniques used by Tiffany Studios.
Keiichi started working in stained glass in 1985. His first training was with teacher Mike Millsap, the owner of the Blue Dolphin Stained Glass shop in San Diego. Even now, Keiichi goes to Mike for help and supplies for which he is appreciative. He joined ASGLA in 1993. Since then, this skilled artist has had many of his lamps in the ASGLA calendars. These achievements include the 16" Tulip and 28" Magnolia (1995), 28" Magnolia ('96), 26" Oriental Poppy ('97), Black-eyed Susan and the Pansy ('98), Crocus ('99), 3
18" Tulip (01). 22" Laburnum (02), Apple Blossom (03), Jonquil Daffodil and the Lotus Bell (04), 20" Dragonfly (05), Pony Wisteria (06), 24" Border Peony (07), Ring Lotus (08) and the Laburnum (09). What an enviable record!!!!
Keiichi remembers vividly the day he first saw stained glass. His elementary school class was taken on a field trip to the City Hall in Osaka, Japan. This building was more than 100 years old and had stained glass all over the entrance area. He was so captivated that he remained immobile studying the glass while the rest of the class continued onward. When the teacher finally found him again, she told him she and all the other students were looking for him for a long time. He got into trouble that day but he didn't mind because he had discovered the mystifying magic of stained glass.
Stained glass started out as a hobby but after Keiichi retired from his job as a Toyota Master Certified Diagnostic Technician, making Tiffany reproduction lamps became his full time second career, something he had dreamed of all his life. Now Keiichi makes 3 to 6 lamps a year and has 15 of them decorating his own home. He doesn't do his own designs but prefers using Tiffany designs since he considers them masterpieces. Since 1985, 90% of his work is made up of Tiffany reproduction lamps and 10% of the work is based upon Tiffany-designed panels.
Keiichi has been selling his lamps for the past 17 years. He estimates he has made about 150 lamps. He holds an exhibit of his lamps once a year at his studio. He has regular customers for whom he makes Tiffany lamps - many who possess several of his lamps. When asked what advice he would give to those just starting out he says "My specialty is Tiffany lamps so I suggest they study original Tiffany lamps in books and museums, if possible". He has a lot of Tiffany books himself that he uses for reference. For additional inspiration and technical reference, Keiichi goes to art shows and museums. In 2007 he traveled to New York to see the presentation of "Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall - An Artist's Country Estate" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He also saw the exhibit "A New light on Tiffany : Clare Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls" at the New- York Historical Society. Keiichi then visited the Morse Museum in Orlando, Florida.
Keiichi also teaches stained glass lamp making to beginners as well as teaching specialized Tiffany reproduction techniques to private students on an individual basis.
Tiffany himself would be envious of the work of this master of lamp reproductions. Thankfully we can enjoy the beauty of his lamps in the calendars and on his website and we look forward with anticipation to seeing his future work.