Today, Kazumi Kamae continues to create her beloved "Masato-san" out of clay. "Listening Museum #5"

"HERALBONY TONE FROM MUSEUM ~Listening Museum~" is a podcast that launched this spring and focuses on artists contracted to the welfare experimental company Heralbony.

Sara Ogawa, an actor, filmmaker, and writer, and Takaya Matsuda, CEO of HERALBONY, will be the interviewers. As they listen carefully to the art, they will touch upon the personality and life story of this "unique artist" that can be seen beyond his work.

Our guest today is Kazumi Kamae, a unique artist who creates clay works at the famous Yamanami Studio, an art studio. We were also joined by Masato Yamashita, the director of Yamanami Studio, who is an essential figure in discussing her work. Please enjoy the exchange between the two, who are like a married couple.

#In love with Masato

Ogawa: What kind of person will be appearing today?

Takaya: Today we have as our guest Kazumi Kamae from Atelier Yamanami in Shiga Prefecture. Atelier Yamanami is a place that not only those in the art industry, but even overseas, say, "Atelier Yamanami! That's amazing!"

Ogawa: Wow. I'm looking at the photo of your work right now, and it's made of clay, right?

Takaya: That's right.

Ogawa: I can't imagine how you can create such intricate shapes, like faces and three-dimensional objects, out of clay! At first glance, it felt soft, like it was made of wool.

Takaya: Actually, all of Kamae's works are inspired by a person called Yamashita Masato, the director of Atelier Yamanami.

Ogawa: I see.

Takaya: I wonder why Kamae's work has such a soft feel to it, and it's because he really loves Yamashita. I think that's where the kindness and warmth comes from. And Yamashita has been invited as our guest today!

Ogawa: Oh!

Takaya: So today we have Kamae Kazumi herself and facility director Yamashita Masato joining us online, and we'd like to hear about the origins of this production.

Director Yamashita: Hello. My name is Yamashita from Yamanami Kobo.

Kamae-san: Nice to meet you. My name is Kazumi Kamae.

Ogawa/Takaya: Kamae-san, Yamashita-san, we look forward to working with you!

Ogawa: So, let me start by asking you about Kamae's work.

Director Yamashita: Yes! Please feel free to ask us anything!

Takaya: Thank you (laughs).

Ogawa: All of Kamae's works are modeled after Yamashita, right?

Director Yamashita: Yes, that seems to be me.

Ogawa: Why Yamashita?

Director Yamashita: Why me? (To Kamae) Why me?

Kamae: Yes. Because I love it.

Everyone: (laughs)

Kamae: Masato is the only one there!

Takaya: Sorry for intruding on your private space (laughs).

Ogawa: Wow, that's amazing! It warmed my heart in an instant.

Director Yamashita: Oh really? It's a little cold here (laughs). There seems to be quite a temperature difference between here and there.

Everyone: (laughs)

Ogawa: Was there a moment when Yamashita-san realized Kamae-san's feelings for you?

Director Yamashita: It's been 35 years since I came to Atelier Yamanami, and Kamae-san was already here at the time. I know that she was in love with another man at the time!

Everyone: (laughs)

Director Yamashita: But those people quit one after another, and in the end it seems like I'm the one who didn't quit. Is that okay?

Kamae: Yes, it's fine.

Director Yamashita: (To Kamae) When did you start making art? You didn't even know what clay was at first, did you?

Kamae: Yeah, I didn't know that.

Director Yamashita: Why did you start working with clay in the first place?


Director Yamashita: Wait, there's no reason? (laughs)

Ogawa: Hehehe.

Director Yamashita: We've been doing this for about 15 years. At first, we just lined up little dumpling-like things. (To Kamae) We just practiced! When I asked him, "Why do you make things out of clay?" he replied, "Because I want Masato to see them!"

Everyone: (Laughing)

Director Yamashita: Sorry. It looks like this (laughs).

Ogawa: The interaction between you two is just amazing! So you've been working with clay for about 15 years, right?

Director Yamashita: That's right. I think it was about 15 years ago. Suddenly, people started calling me Masato-san. (To Kamae-san) Why me? Aren't there other guys who are more handsome?

Kamae: No.

Director Yamashita: Well, around that time, I also went to see people working with clay, and I saw all kinds of works and said, "Wow, that's amazing!", and before I knew it, Kamae had also started working with clay. The works she made were like nothing I'd ever seen before. They were interesting, and she seemed to be having fun. So I said, "That's great! Make more of that!", and as I worked on them every day, they gradually took on the shape they have today. So when I asked her, "What are you making?" she said, "Actually, it's you," and from that moment on, I felt a little excited. I didn't feel that way, though (laughs). I was excited. I felt like I was breaking out into a cold sweat (laughs).

Everyone: (Laughing)

Director Yamashita: Mr. Kamae, why do you only make things for me? Wouldn't it be fine if someone like Hiroshi or Konishi did it too?

Kamae: Eh, I don't like it anymore.

Everyone: (laughing again)

Facility Director Yamashita: It seems like the old men and women are just saying whatever they want (laughs).

# I can't stop saying "I love you"

Takaya: Are you not making any other works aside from those based on Masato?

Director Yamashita: How is it? Has anyone else besides Masato made one?

Kamae: (immediately answers) No.

Director Yamashita: Apparently not. However, in recent works, Yamashita-san and "I" are always included.

Ogawa: Kamae yourself?

Director Yamashita: That's right. So there are often two faces in one piece of work. If you look at my recent work, there's one that says "Masato and I swimming together in the ocean in Hawaii." I've never been to Hawaii! (laughs)

Ogawa: Your imagination is running wild (laughs).

Director Yamashita: There's also "Masato and I eating dinner at a luxury hotel in Waikiki." It seems like the work is created from her various stories like that.

Ogawa: How do you decide on the settings and titles?

Facility Director Yamashita: How is it?

Kamae: The title is Hawaii, Wedding.

Director Yamashita: She often opens a travel book and says, "My next destination is here." She has her own Cinderella story. It's like she's dreaming about it. She's not just in Japan, she's traveled around the world.

Ogawa: Through your work, you are traveling with Yamashita.

Director Yamashita: I've never been there (laughs). Ah, but you're going to Tokyo next time, right?

Kamae: Yes.

Kazumi Kamae "Masato and I looking at the sea"

Takaya: I heard that you send Yamashita an email once or twice a day. Is this true?

Kamae: Yes, that's true.

Takaya: What are you sending?

Kamae: (embarrassed) Eh, that's a secret!

Takaya: That's a secret.

(Kamae-san gently slaps Masato-san)

Takaya: Ahh! The two of us were hitting each other hard (laughs).

Ogawa: It almost feels too good to broadcast it on the radio! I want to show it to everyone (laughs).

Director Yamashita: But for the past 15 years, without missing a single day, she has expressed her love to me in all sorts of ways. At first, she sent me letters.

Takaya: I see.

Director Yamashita: And it ended up being thousands of messages. Right?

Kamae: Yes.

Director Yamashita: We exchange diaries every day, and if we don't get anything done with them, he gets really upset. He ends up destroying a piece of work that was almost finished, and it makes us feel bad for him.

Takaya: Oh.

Ogawa: So not only do you meet every day, but you also send letters and emails to each other, right?

Director Yamashita: That's right. For her, creating artwork, sending e-mails, and writing letters are the only enjoyable things in life, and they are also very important.

Ogawa: Yamashita-san, how do you feel when you receive Kamae-san's thoughts?

Director Yamashita: Well, I don't know what to say. He's right next to me now (laughs).

Takaya: Sara, that's a good question (laughs).

Director Yamashita: How should I put it, I've long since forgotten how to love one person wholeheartedly and express and convey my feelings regardless of the consequences. As a woman, she is wonderful, or perhaps beautiful. What do you think, Takaya? If such a woman appeared. (To Kamae) Why don't you start making one yourself starting tomorrow?

Kamae-san: No way! (Immediate answer)

Takaya: No, no, let's just go with "Masato-san" (laughs).

Kazumi Kamae "Masato and I spending time together at the art center"

Ogawa: But I think the detail in this piece is just amazing. How do you go about making it?

Director Yamashita: I'm asking you, why are you being so detailed?

Kamae-san: Why is it so thin? It looks like hair. My shoulders are stiff, but I'll do my best.

Facility Director Yamashita: You're amazing, Auntie, for working so hard on something like this!

Kamae: I'm not an old lady!

Facility Director Yamashita: I'm sorry.

Takaya: It's starting to seem like a comedy act between a married couple.

Ogawa: Really! So, you first harden the clay, and then how do you attach these tiny hair-like things to it?

Director Yamashita: I'm not that hairy though. (To Kamae) How do you make it?

Kamae: Use your fingers to make something that looks like a grain of rice.

Ogawa: Eh, is it made from fingers?

Director Yamashita: First, we roll up the newspaper like a dodgeball. Then we stick clay on the newspaper to create a base. We add eyes, a nose, and a mouth, and then we stick on small objects the size of a grain of rice one by one.

Ogawa: Amazing.

Director Yamashita: It takes about one or two months to complete one piece of work. I guess they spend about an hour working with clay in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. They spend about half of that time napping, sending emails, or writing letters, right?

Kamae: I do.

Facility Director Yamashita: I'm sure they make them with a lot of thoughts, like how cute they are and so on.

Ogawa: Wow. Do you look at Yamashita-san's face while you're making it?

Director Yamashita: That's scary (laughs). Now she makes them in a different room on a different floor, but before she always made them at her desk where I was. It was like "The Housekeeper Saw It!" So when I thought she was staring at me, it was because she was looking at me from somewhere!

Ogawa: Wow! Your work is really wonderful, but are there any memorable moments from your time together?

Director Yamashita: Do you have any memories of me?

Kamae-san: Memories...

Facility Director Yamashita: There isn't any!

Kamae-san: ...Tokyo.

Director Yamashita: Yes, Tokyo. In a letter I received from him before, he wrote, "I want to go to Tokyo with you someday," and I always thought that there was no way that would ever happen. But then he was selected for an exhibition in Tokyo, and I ended up having to drive him there! (laughs)

Ogawa: It's a dream come true! The power of the work has drawn on that love and taken you all the way to Tokyo.

Facility Director Yamashita: That's right.

Ogawa: Where did you go in Tokyo?

Kamae: Tokyo.

Director Yamashita: I was asking where in Tokyo you went (laughs)

Kamae: Skytree.

Director Yamashita: We saw the Skytree. We went to a service area while riding in a car. But is it fun to go there with an old guy like me?

Kamae: Interesting.

Director Yamashita: Sorry for the flirting (laughs)

Takaya: I was really shown off (laughs).

#A couple traveling with art

Ogawa: Are there any places where you can actually see works like this?

In fact, the exhibition "ART IN YOU Art is Within You" is currently being held at the SMBC Earth Garden in the East Building of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in Otemachi, and you can see it there. It is curated by Hiromi Kurosawa, chief curator of the Kanazawa 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, and will be held from Saturday, May 20, 2023 to Saturday, June 17, 2023. *We hope you will come and see Kamae's detailed works there.

*The exhibition has now ended.

Ogawa: So that means Yamashita's face can be seen in Tokyo.

Director Yamashita: That's right. I really wish people could see the work and see if it was really me or not. I'm a little hurt when people say, "It's the exact same thing" (laughs).

Ogawa: It was really clear that the two of you were close enough to be able to say anything to each other, and it was a truly wonderful moment.

Director Yamashita: Oh, and also, she will be creating a piece of art at the venue on Saturday, June 3rd.

Takaya: That's right. The second installment of Tokyo Love Story is about to begin.

Director Yamashita: Stop it! (laughs)

Takaya: I would love for everyone listening to the podcast to have the chance to see the two of you perform your comedy act as a married couple (laughs).

Ogawa: Amazing! So you're saying that you'll continue to create works inside the venue?

Takaya: That's right. The SMBC Earth Garden of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation is a huge venue, and as the main event there, Kamae-san and Yamashita-san will be creating works in public, so I hope you'll come and see it.

Ogawa: It seems we might be able to see this combination of the two of you live.

Takaya: It's not just "maybe," I think we'll definitely be able to see it!

Ogawa: I think it's a rare opportunity to not only see the work but also meet the artist himself, so I hope everyone will come and see it.

Takaya: Kamae-san, where do you dream of exhibiting next?

Director Yamashita: (Whispering to Kamae-san)

Kamae-san: Yes, there is! Iwate.

Takaya: Did someone just whisper something to you?! (laughs)

Everyone: (laughs)

Takaya: Thank you. Iwate is possible anytime. But it might be far from Shiga. That might be good because you'll be able to spend more time with Yamashita-san.

Director Yamashita: We'll go anywhere. Thank you!

Ogawa: Perhaps there are also overseas locations like Hawaii, like in the previous work?

Takaya: I think so! Yes, I went on a business trip to Paris last week. I met the gallery owner of Christian Belst, the only outsider artist who exhibits at Art Basel, and I heard that he collaborates with Atelier Yamanami's work.

Director Yamashita: About two years ago, we had a solo exhibition for Atelier Yamanami. We are planning to do something again next year. Maybe Kamae-san will take me to Paris (laughs).

Takaya: We have also discussed working with Christian Werst, so we would be happy if we could work together again!

Director Yamashita: Thank you. By that time, the person you like might be someone else instead of me (laughs).

Takaya: Christian Werst was also a good-looking guy, so it's hard to tell (laughs).

Ogawa: I'm really looking forward to your continued travels around the world through your art. Kamae-san, Yamashita-san. Thank you so much for the wonderful, heart-fluttering time today!

Everyone: Thank you very much!

Text by Tomoyo Akasaka

Kazumi Kamae

Born in 1966. Lives in Shiga Prefecture. Has been with Yamanami Studio since 1985. Not good at expressing her feelings to others, she continues to create sculptures of people she wants to attract their attention as a communication tool. All of her models are men she has feelings for. First, she decides on the subject and prepares the base shape, then carefully embeds the entire surface with fine rice-grain-sized clay. Large pieces can take more than two months to complete, and the countless grains cover the entire piece, transforming it into various shapes. She wants to be recognized by the person she loves. Even now, this feeling is what drives her creations.


The podcast "HERALBONY TONE FROM MUSEUM" is now available for free

Based on the concept of "imagining the history of an unconventional artist through his art," this program listens closely to the art and touches upon the personality and life story of one "unconventional artist" that can be seen beyond his work.

The two MCs are Sara Ogawa, an actor, filmmaker and writer, and Takaya Matsuda, CEO of HERALBONY. Each episode focuses on a writer under contract with HERALBONY, and welcomes intellectually disabled writers, their families and welfare facility staff as guests.

It is available every Sunday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

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