Japanese-Born Sculptor Tamae Frame: “It is my nature to create through touch”
INTERVIEW WITH TAMAE FRAME, SCULPTOR
Portland, Oregon ~
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: What is it about the tactile experience of hands working clay that resonates so deeply with you?
Tamae Frame: I think it is my nature to create through touch. There was a period in my life when I didn’t acknowledge this, but deep down, I think I’ve always known I am a very tactile person.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Did you notice any shifts in you once you started working in clay?
Tamae Frame: Yes. It seems to have opened a valve in me.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Do you think most of us are missing out on sufficient tactile pleasures in our daily lives? Are we harming ourselves by spending so much of our time in our heads?
Tamae Frame: I think urban life creates a lack of tactile pleasure, yes. We do tend to spend too much time in our heads, which makes us imbalanced in our psyche.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: I can see that your work can also be a practice in patience, slowing yourself down. How long does each sculpture usually take for you to complete?
Tamae Frame: Typically, anywhere from 30 to 70 hours to sculpt, depending on the size and design. This is not including designing, planning, and the waiting period for drying a piece. Add to that about 30 hours more for the glaze application, bisque firing, and the final firing needed to complete a piece.
Working with clay has led me to learn about the nature of timing: the skill of waiting and acting at just the right moment. Clay is very difficult to work with when it’s too wet or too dry, so I have to wait for the right time and not lose those key moments to work with it. I also apply this principle in my life when making decisions and then taking action precisely when needed.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Can you tell me about Trepidation? There is a push-pull here, isn’t there? The vegetation is reaching towards the female figure but we’re not certain whether its intent is to harm or to caress. And from her body posture, one senses that this woman is not quite certain herself, for even as she is leaning back and away, still, her neck is bent toward as if to make a connection. Can you tell me about your intention for this piece?
Tamae Frame: I actually conceived of the idea for the second piece in the Trepidation series first. I had the design for #2 all worked out before I even began #1, but ended up completing it afterwards.
For Trepidation 2, I created the vegetation as the representation of Fear, and in the piece it’s coming toward the woman from behind. She is terrified about being overtaken by this unidentifiable thing.
Tamae Frame: But then I wanted to express that part of ourselves that wants to see what is threatening us, to maybe try to at last overcome our fear. So I created the figure of the woman in Trepidation 1 facing the vegetation (Fear), her posture suggesting that she is studying carefully and sizing up her agressor. She can’t shake off Fear completely, so that’s why her body is trying to flee, but her neck is bent back toward it, to truly see.
I like your interpretation of it, too (that she is trying to make a connection with it). That’s a new insight! I love to hear different interpretations of my work. I suspect that how each connects with a particular piece also tells something about that person as well.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: In so many of your other works, such as Spirit of Lotus, Embodiment of Lotus Flower, Nocturnal Being, and again in Metamorphosis, the women you have carved are serenely merging into plant-forms. Growing up in Japan, did you feel a strong connection with nature? Or is this something that has happened for you later in life?
Tamae Frame: Growing up in Tokyo, I didn’t have much experience with nature, so I couldn’t form a strong connection with it. But there was always a yearning in me. I didn’t fully actualize it until I started living in the States in early 90’s. For me, a flower is a symbol of changing into another stage of its life, and therefore embodies positive energy, just in very sensitive way. I wanted to depict that fragile but robust expression in those pieces.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Please tell me about Lost Memory in the Dune.
Tamae Frame: I tend to associate shells with powerful old memories. Perhaps because it used to be a living creature once but now it’s gone, leaving it’s old self behind. Sometimes I try to remember my distant past, but it’s hazy and that haziness reminds me of seeing a distant object in the dust – I imagined a scene of a sand dune. So Lost Memory in the Dune expresses the old memory that is disappearing into the dune. Like an object that is created with sand can’t remain for any length of time, no memory can survive in time as it was before.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Do you yourself have a favorite piece of yours? Have you ever connected with a piece so deeply that you couldn’t bear to part with it?
Tamae Frame: I feel very connected with most of my pieces and I need a certain length of time to pass before I feel OK to let go of them. My favorite piece is Blooming of the Feminine Consciousness. It represents the celebration of womanhood. I had been feeling the opposite sentiment toward womanhood, but when I conceptualized this idea I realized that I’d accepted my own womanhood at last.
Japanese-born, Tamae Frame studied many different artforms growing up, including calligraphy, drawing, painting, and jewelry design. In Tokyo, she worked as a fashion jewelry designer. Frame immigrated to the U.S. in 1992 and began working as a full time studio jewelry artist whose focus was on producing one-of-a-kind jewelry. Eventually she was inspired to make figurative jewelry, exhibiting in numerous invitational and juried gallery exhibitions.
In 2004, Tamae moved to figurative sculpture, preferring the more malleable material over metals. Recently her work was featured in the book, Contemporary Sculptors – 84 International Artists.
To view more of Frame’s artwork, please visit her website.