Art Annual 2023

Artist Profile: Yukimi Matsumoto

Cape Cod Art  /  ART Annual 2023 /

Writer: Valerie Gates

Glass artist Yukimi Matsumoto grew up in the bustling city of Osaka, Japan. Her extended family ran a sushi restaurant and she and her siblings often went there after school, watching in awe as the chefs worked their magic.

Kimono • blown glass • 16″ x 10″

“They were like craftsmen, they knew their materials and trained a long time to create wonderful things,” she remembers. Also without consciously knowing it, she saw just how much self-employed people need to work day and night. 

Matsumoto went to Osaka College of Design to study production design. “There, I took a glass course and learned the basics of glass making. They taught me about stained glass, fusing glass, torch working, kiln working, but glassblowing was so expensive that they couldn’t offer it.” One glass studio in Nagano offered students a summer internship, and Matsumoto was chosen. “Everything was new and I was only useful for making little jewelry from scrap and sweeping the floor. But surrounded by adult glassblowers who were sketching their new work or working on pieces with sweat was just amazing! They showed me how to hold glassblowing tools and I went back to my room and practiced all night with brooms or chopsticks,” she remembers. That internship was a turning point in her artistic career.

She met her husband and mentor David McDermott, in a glassblowing class in Corning, New York in 1999. “We worked well together and I came to visit him on the Cape and worked with him a bit more. We worked together again for couple of summers, fell in love and married in 2001,” the artist remembers.

In 2002, they built their own studio in their back yard. Beginning was hard, they knew about glass blowing—McDermott was very well trained in traditional Scottish glassblowing, and Matsumoto was a good assistant—but they didn’t know anything about business. They constructed the building and the equipment by themselves and just jumped into making whatever caught their fancy. Remembering her parents and grandparents work ethic, it wasn’t unusual for Matsumoto to work day and night to get things done.

As an assistant, she experimented with mixed colors in every piece. In glass, the color is made by metal oxide. When she mixed colors like blue and yellow, it usually did not come out green, but came out a really bad brown. She started experimenting, creating many different color combinations to figure out the process.

Lily White Vases • blown glass • average 13″ x 8″

“The chemical reaction in glass is what makes colors change and I started to understand which color combination works to create unique and beautiful things and so on. I made a vase we call Midnight Wave. That was the first piece I loved and was proud of,” she explains.

Trained by McDermott, Matsumoto blows glass with the Scottish method. Many glassblowers in the United States use the Italian method, so her use of coloring and traditional Scottish methods give her pieces a unique look.

Nature is her biggest inspiration, but so is fabric. “My grandmother loved wearing a Kimono, wearing it at her sushi restaurant and whenever she went out. I used to love seeing how she put down the layers and belt (obi) before she put them on. As a girl growing up in Western clothing, I thought some of the colors or designs can’t, or shouldn’t go together. But as I watched, those colors I thought shouldn’t go well together went together magically and beautifully! I just wanted to try to put those feelings in my work and I started to make a Kimono series,” she says. The beauty and traditions of her heritage come forth from her memories to her hands in all her creations, resulting in mesmerizing colors and patterns. 

Yukimi Matsumoto’s work can be seen in Sandwich at The Sandwich Glass Museum and The McDermott Glass Studio and Gallery located at 272 Cotuit Road in Sandwich and Glassblowing is open for public viewing Wednesday-Friday 10am-5pm.