Baker graduate shares passion for ceramicsBaldwin City, Kan. — As a child growing up in Nagano, Japan, Machiko Yamazaki enjoyed drawing and music before eventually discovering a passion for ceramics.
For the past week on Baker University’s Baldwin City campus, she has shared her artwork with the “Colorful Clouds” exhibit at Holt-Russell Gallery. The art will be on display for two more weeks. Machiko, a 2004 Baker graduate and artist in residence at her alma mater, is the owner of Floating Cloud Pottery in Overland Park, where she specializes in clay and porcelain. She is married to fellow ceramist Kevin Erhard.
“I wanted more than just having my pieces sitting on a pedestal,” Machiko (Yamazaki) Erhard said of her exhibit at Holt-Russell Gallery. “Colorful Clouds connected with my store name and I have always liked light, soft things. I think the clouds match the idea.”
Before arriving in the United States in 2000 to explore a new culture, Erhard earned a business degree from Dohto University, Baker’s former sister school in Hokkaido, Japan. She was immersed in an English as a Second Language program for a year at the Baldwin City campus before earning her Bachelor of Arts degree with an emphasis on ceramics.
“When I first started at Baker I didn’t speak any English,” she recalled. “My dad wanted me to study abroad. I never wanted to do it, but I am glad I did. I had a lot of freedom in my art classes at Baker. Art professor Inge Balch was very helpful with techniques and developing my ideas. It was a great experience.”
For the past year, Erhard has worked at the Bennett art building on the Baldwin City campus, where she has interacted with art students and reunited with Balch.
“I like to create art that people can use,” Erhard said. “I always found functional ware more satisfying. Pottery is common in Japan. It’s nice to know people like my tableware and actually use them.”
Originally from Denmark, Balch knew the challenges Erhard faced because of the language barrier living far from home. The Baker professor remembers Erhard as a student committed to her artwork and learning English.
“She did not speak much English but communicated well through her clay work and positive attitude,” Balch said. “She was a very hard worker with an innate sense of design and color. Machiko spent long hours in Bennett working on both language and ceramics.”
Soon after Erhard graduated from Baker, Balch introduced her to a ceramics professor at Kansas State. The professor offered Erhard a place in the graduate program, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in 2008. Erhard taught at Greeley, Colo., before returning to Overland Park, where she has an art studio and has participated in several regional and international exhibitions.
Balch has admired Erhard’s development as an artist and is pleased she returned to Baker to showcase her art.
“Her work has evolved from wheel throwing, functional pieces to sculptural, hand-built work and now back to the functional work — both wheel thrown and hand built,” Balch said. “She is a Baker success.”
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