The furnaces inside Viscosity Studio are set at 2000°. Tomoko Yoshitake repeatedly wipes sweat away from her forehead and downs several bottles of water as>"/>
The furnaces inside Viscosity Studio are set at 2000°. Tomoko Yoshitake repeatedly wipes sweat away from her forehead and downs several bottles of water as she works. "Glass is tricky," she says as she grabs a blowtorch and accosts the shapeless material before her. "It's like a relationship. I try my best, but that doesn't mean it's going to work out how I want. I can't control the whole thing."
But sometimes it seems she can. After an hour, she pulls her blowpipe from the fiery inferno, and emerging from the bubbling glass, still glowing orange from the heat, is...a teddy bear. Yoshitake cheers and sticks the creature back in the furnace to sit a little longer. Glass bears like this one are becoming this eccentric artist's most in-demand creation. Her ability to contort molten glass into zoo animals sets her apart from the countless glassblowers who produce (yawn) vases, chandeliers, and candleholders. To get to this point, Yoshitake admits, took years of trial and error. She's burnt herself badly more than once.
But in the process of studying and mastering the art form, Yoshitake also created a genre all her own. The beguiling beauty dresses up in fetishistic fashions and shoots photos of herself posing with her glass objects. Here's Yoshitake in a sexy nurse getup drinking out of a self-created martini glass. Or Yoshitake draped in chains and leather as she bends over a glass flower. The photos double as sellable art in their own right, and ingenious marketing. "Americans like Asians," Yoshitake says with a giggle. "I make sure to take advantage of that."
Most of her projects are inspired by visits to the toy store. And though her work reflects the kawaii (cute) aesthetic so prevalent in J-pop culture, she also wants it to be functional. The glass bubblegum machine she's planning is meant to hold real candy. She wants the goblets she creates to actually be used for drinking.
The latter activity, Yoshitake says, is another weakness she's discovered in Americans, one she took advantage of at the opening of her debut show, "All About Me," in April at Art/Not Terminal. The reception featured burlesque dancers, QFC catering, and...lots of beer. "People stick around if there's a keg of beer to finish," Yoshitake observes. She'll show her newest pieces at a collective exhibit titled "Toy Story" at Gallery 110 next month.—Erika Hobart www.tokyoglassart.com.
Tomoko Yoshitake's Picks:
BEST CHEESECAKE: The Confectional in Pike Place Market. "Japanese people are obsessed with sweets," Yoshitake says. "It took me a long time to find a good cheesecake, but I did. This is the best dessert in Seattle—actually, in King County."
BEST SCONE: Yoshitake orders the apple scone at Hi-Spot Café. "If you eat one, you'll understand why it's best," she promises.
BEST POLE DANCING CLASS: Free Movement Zone in the U District. Yoshitake attends this 90 minute class weekly. "It's a hardcore workout," she says. "You spend a lot of time strengthening your core muscles so you can climb up a pole."
BEST JAPANESE IMPORT: Daiso. "I buy my fake eyelashes there when I have a photo shoot. They have so much fun and random stuff."