Kotomi Lemi
Yoda
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Ms. Kotomi “Lemi” Yoda became a metalwork artists specializing in Reppousse and other hammering techniques because, as she puts it,

“the Fire god teased her.”

Kotomi was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1964. Kotomi started her study of art very early and by the age of 15, she had decided her life's goal was to become an artist. At the time, she believed studying Design was the most advanced sector of the arts. She entered the Department of Graphic Design at the Tokyo Metropolitan High School of Fine Arts and Music where she studied drawing, design, clay modeling, oil painting, art history, color study and sculpture. By 18 she became interested in 3-dimensional artwork because she believed art should be touched and enjoyed with all the senses. She exhibited her graduating work as part of a group exhibition at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Tokyo.

In 1984, 2 years after she graduated from the Department of Graphic Design at the Tokyo Metropolitan High School of Fine Arts and Music, she entered the prestigious Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. She took many different classes, like Japan Urushi lacquerware, fabric making, ceramics, and traditional metalworking. She became interested in Reppousse (forged metal sculpture) and other hammering works when she was taking a casting class and a wax model she had made melted in an unusual way, which she blamed on the over-active Japanese Fire god Ho-masubi. Reppousse and other hammering works are less vulnerable to Ho-Masubi so Kotomi can hold her own against the Fire god.

She completed her B.A. in Metalsmithing in 1988, M.A. in Metalsmithing in 1990 and another M.A. in Conservation and Restoration in 1992.

While studying conservation and restoration and working with ancient metalwork pieces, Kotomi decided to try to make her work last more than 500 years, thus her work tends to be strong and made to last.

During her time at University, she exhibited her work as part of a group exhibition at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Tokyo four times, once at the Yoyogi Gallery in Tokyo, and once at the Tokyo International University of Fine Arts and Music in Tokyo. While at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, Kotomi was awarded the covered Harada Prize for her creative at work and, after earning her first master's degree, she was granted membership in the Japanese Modern Craft Art Society.

After leaving University, Kotomi displaying her works as part of a group exhibition at the Ochanomiizu Gallery in Tokyo in 1993, as part of four-person exhibition entitled “Crafts for the Home” at the Sudo Gallery in Tokyo in 1994, and as a solo exhibition entitled “Kotomi Lemi Yoda's Metalwork World” at Gallery Orim in Tokyo in 1995. In addition, Kotomi taught Drawing at the Ochanomizu Art Institute and Tokyo Metropolitan High School of Design and Technology, and the Kawaijuku Art School, taught Jewelry making at the Tokyo Design College. Drawing and Graphic Design at the Tokyo Metropolitan High School of Fine Arts and Music, Color Design at the Tokyo YMCA Design School. And was an Instructor for the Master of Arts program in Conservation and Restoration at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.

In 1994, Kotomi created the Tokyo Metalwork Studio where she continued her creative artwork as well as various restoration works on culturally significant artifacts and Japanese National Treasures. In 1995, she began consulting on restoration and research of ancient Japanese metalwork techniques for Japanese museums, which she continues to this day.

In 1996, she with a colleague, Tsutomu Suzuki, formed the Japanese Ancient Metalwork Techniques Research Institution in Tokyo, bringing together 20 individuals including Professors, instructors, and PhDs from Universities, experts from Tokyo national museum, and students from various fields including archeology, metalwork, textile, woodwork, leatherwork, and others to study and recreate the techniques used by artisans in Japan from fourth to seventh century AD. This institution continues research into historical artisans' techniques and has grown to over 30 experts and students.

Selected restoration works and special museum projects in Japan include:

1992 Metalwork restoration project at the Enmeji-Temple in Saitama, the Buddha sculpture in Kanagawa, and the Buddha's Cabinet in Chiba Prefecture.
1993 Silver Reppousse Buddha sculpture for Naritasan-Shinshoji Branch Temple in Chiba Prefecture.
1994 Metalwork restoration projects of the Buddha's cabinet in Kanagawa, Metalwork Ramps of Nihonbashi Bridge restoration project in Tokyo, ancient crown and jewelry at the Shimane Museum in Shimane Prefecture.
1995 Metalwork copy restoration project of ancient horse armor and buckle at the Kashihara Archeology Institute of Museum in Nara Prefecture.
1996 Metalwork copy and restoration project of ancient sword and jewelry at the Shimane Museum in Shimane Prefecture.
1997 Metalwork copy restoration project of the Mandala National Treasure at the Tokyo National Museum in Tokyo.
1998 Metalwork copy restoration project of ancient pendant earrings at Suzuka City Archeology Museum in Mie Prefecture.
2000 Metalwork copy restoration project of ancient horse armor at the ukushima Cultural Property Center in Fukushima Prefecture.
2004 Metalwork copy restoration project of ancient pendant earrings at the Fukuoka City Museum and at the Kawara-machi Institute of Education.
2007 Metalwork copy restoration project of ancient pendant chain hair ornaments of National Treasure at the Kashihara Archeology Institute of Museum in Nara Prefecture.

Kotomi has also lectured on Metalwork techniques of ancient artisans at the Institute of Engineering in Tokyo and the Shimane Museum in Shimane Prefecture, ancient jewelry making techniques at results of her research on the Mandala National Treasure at the Hiko-Mizuno Jewelry College, artisan techniques in the creation of the ancient pendant earrings at the Suzuka City Archeology Museum, ancient jewelry making techniques at the Shimane Research and Conservation Institute, artisan techniques, how ancient mirrors were polished, and the results of her research on ancient metalwork at the Fukuoka City Museum, and techniques of using gold leaf to 3D artwork at several metalwork studios and shops.

Kotomi has published 11 articles on ancient metalwork techniques in the creation of horse armor, the hollow precious gold covered metal balls found in the Saginoyu Tomb, the metalwork techniques of Golden Twin Dragon Ring Pommel Sword, the Kofun-period Pendant Earrings from the Hokori-Ichigofun Tomb, the Kofun-period Pendant Earrings from the Nagahata-Ichigofun Tomb, the metalwork technique creation of pendant chain hair ornaments from the Fujinoki-kofun Tomb in various museum and academic journals.

In 1999, Kotomi moved to the US and established Lemi's Metalwork Studio in Redwood City, CA., where she has been continuing her work in restoring and researching Japanese National treasures remotely, as well as teaching art and jewelry making to students in the US.

Kotomi believes in the continuity of cultural traditions. As she says, “I am Japanese. I learned Japanese cultural and traditional techniques from many people. I really appreciate the fact that I am walking on a path made by artisans in the past. I believe I am one of the people privileged to transmit this knowledge to others. I will continue to work using ancient and traditional Japanese techniques fused with modern ideas. I hope people will enjoy my work for a long time in the future.”