I met Koichi Yamamoto in early November of 2016 during my term as adjunct professor of printmaking at the Kansas City Art Institute. Koichi was/is a professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and spent a day or two demonstrating copper engraving and printing on very light gampi paper which he printed, then folded in half and pressed to produce a mirrored ghost. These prints frequently looked like portraits of gods or aliens from some distant past or future. Intricate, architectural, ornate.
I’d begun making ukuleles and Koichi was travelling with his own ukulele. We spent several wonderful hours playing together and singing. Koichi is a reasonably accomplished musician and vocalist and I did my best to keep up and croak along. It was just SO fun!!
Koichi and I agreed to trade work. My ukulele X (the tenth I’d made) for one of his wonderful prints, sight unseen. Koichi sent a huge monoprint with chine colle engraving and I sent the tenth ukulele I’d made, “X”. Koichi’s print is framed and hangs in my home and my ukulele accompanies him everywhere.
In 2019, Koichi invited 43 artists to print designs on kites for a project he named, “PRINTKITE” that was exhibited November 25, 2019 – January 24, 2020 at the University of Tennessee’s Gallery 103 and at the 2020 SGC International Printmaking Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico where the kites were flown on April 30, 2020.
The Rokkaku kite is a six-sided Japanese kite that is traditionally made with bamboo spars and washi paper, and is often hand painted with the face of Bodhidharma. For this project, the kites were made using carbon fiber rods, tyvek and a velcro fastening system that Koichi designed. He sent each invited artist the tyvec on which to create their image, which were then mailed back to be fabricated.
Participating artists included Miguel Aragon, Gianna Bentivenga, Maria Pina Bentivenga, Aaron Coleman, Pietro Desirò, Justin Diggle, Stefanie Dykes, Jeff Dell, Matt Egan, Bill Fick, Bob Fleming, Umberto Giovanini, Jon Goebel, Jean Grumpper, Dusty Herbig, Karla Hackemiller, John Hancock, John Hitchcock, Raluca Iancu, Etsuko Kato, Anna Kenar, Jun Lee, Mike Lyon, Beauvais Lyons, Emmett Merrill, Heather Muise, Tim Musso, Anna Nicholson, Simone Philippou, Nick Ruth, Jenny Schmid, Mizin Shin, Jon Swindler, Humberto Saenz, Jennifer Scheur, Jeff Sherven, Taro Takizawa, Chiho Ushio, Joseph Velasquez, Erik Waterkotte, Art Werger, Sangmi Yoo, and Koichi Yamamoto.