Kay Sekimachi


Name Kay Sekimachi
Born September 30 1926
Birth Location San Francisco
Generational Identifier

Nisei

Internationally acclaimed master weaver and fiber artist Kay Sekimachi (1926-) is considered to be pioneer in the resurrection of weaving as a legitimate expression of art; her work can be found in at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Museum of Arts & Design, New York, the Oakland Museum of California, and the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, and many other museums and private collections.

She was born on September 30, 1926, in San Francisco, California, and spent her childhood growing up in Berkeley. When she was three years old, the family spent a year in Japan. Upon returning to California, she began collecting and designing accessories for paper dolls while also attending after school programs to study calligraphy, both of which influenced early aesthetic senses and habits. When she was ten, her father passed away, and her family moved in with another Japanese American family.[1] At age sixteen, Sekimachi and her family were forced from their Berkeley home into American concentration camps for the duration of World War II. They first moved to Tanforan Assembly Center, and then to Topaz in Utah. While at Topaz, Sekimachi studied painting and origami at the Topaz Art School founded by Chiura Obata and also took classes in painting, costume design, and interior decoration in the high school.

In 1944, she and her family left Topaz after she graduated from high school. They resettled in Cincinnati, in part because the mother of a woman Sekimachi's mother had worked for in Berkeley needed domestic help. They lived in a Quaker hostel, and Sekimachi initially worked as a domestic for six months before working as a pottery glazer and later as a dental technician. In 1945, the family returned to Berkeley, and the following year, she enrolled at the California College of Arts and Crafts. She left CCAC to pursue her interest in weaving in 1949, and took basic courses at the Berkeley Adult School to build her foundation of knowledge. In 1951, Sekimachi had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Bauhaus weaver Trude Guermonprez at Pond Farm, a craft community and school located in Guerneville, California. In 1954 and 1955, Sekimachi attended summer sessions back at the California College of Arts and Crafts specifically to studying with Guermonprez, and even finished Guermonprez's session as a substitute teacher in the summer of 1955.

In 1972, Sekimachi married craftsman and woodworker Bob Stocksdale, who had been confined in conscientious objector camps during World War II. In 1975, Sekimachi was recognized with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and traveled to Japan. She worked as a teacher at the Berkeley Adult School (where she had first learned to weave) from 1964-1972, and also at the San Francisco Community College from 1965-1986.

Her fiber work has been exhibited extensively in the United States, Europe, and Asia, including solo exhibitions at the Mingei International Museum, San Diego, California and at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles. The American Craft Museum in New York also mounted a traveling exhibition, "Marriage in Form: Kay Sekimachi & Bob Stocksdale" that went to multiple venues around the United States from 1993-1995. The recipient of many awards, she was most recently recognized in 2002, upon receiving the American Craft Council's Gold Medal.

She lives in Berkeley, California.

Authored by Patricia Wakida

For More Information

Kay Sekimachi video. http://jsauergallery.com/sagemoon/artistPages/KSekimachi.html.

Chang, Gordon H., Mark Dean Johnson, and Paul J. Karlstrom, editors. Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2008.

Hauseur, Krystal Reiko. "Crafted Abstraction: Three Nisei Artists and the American Studio Craft Movement: Ruth Asawa, Kay Sekimachi, and Toshiko Takaezu." Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Irvine, 2011.

Kay Sekimachi oral history. Interviewed by Suzanne Baizerman, July 26 to August 6, 2001. Archives of American Art.

Footnotes

  1. Gordon H. Chang, Mark Dean Johnson, and Paul J. Karlstrom, editors, Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2008), 313; Krystal Reiko Hauseur, "Crafted Abstraction: Three Nisei Artists and the American Studio Craft Movement: Ruth Asawa, Kay Sekimachi, and Toshiko Takaezu" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Irvine, 2011), 36–37.