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On the blog: Sculptor prepares to begin carving Black Hills Garden

March 2, 2015

Sculptor Masayuki Nagase opens a new chapter when he returns to Rapid City to work on Passage of Wind and Water in June. This summer, Yuki moves from the completed Badlands Tapestry Garden to the Black Hills Tapestry Garden along Sixth Street on the other side of Main Street Square, and his unifying visual theme transitions from wind to water.

Over the next four months, Yuki will be busy refining the design he created for the Black Hills stones more than two years ago during the artist selection process. The sculptor is also carefully planning his approach to the Black Hills Garden’s more challenging granite, Rockville Beige.

We recently caught up with Yuki in his workshop and studio in Berkeley to learn more about his preparation process.

First, we had to find out how he makes those plaster replicas of the project’s existing granite stones that he uses in the transition taking his design from two dimensions to three. The explanation required Skype so that Yuki could show us what he was talking about!

Using the plans and measurements from the original Main Street Square construction document, Yuki draws a 1-foot to 1-inch scaled pattern that loosely resembles a sewing pattern. He transfers this pattern onto a special hard cardboard, cuts it out, and creates what looks like a complicated, unassembled, flattened cardboard box. He folds it, glues it, fills it with plaster and, voila, he’s created a plaster version of one of the project’s stones that’s similar in size to a loaf of bread.

Yuki then takes a small saw, rasp, electric grinder and sometimes sandpaper to the rough shapes to smooth them to even more closely replicate the granite stones. Once the artist is happy with his designs on paper, he transfers them to these small, manageable models.

“I have been changing some details, but the main design stays the same,” Yuki says. “I am developing and modifying my preliminary design in order to connect the whole surface of the stones, so sometimes I have to add some new elements.”

“I want to give some particular movement on my design,” he says. “Relation between the pieces is very important. Overall, when you look at the pieces together, I want to see each piece to be an integral part of the whole, just like many passages with some rhythms and melodies within a music composition.”

If you look closely at The Sculpture Project, you’ll notice that the two stone gardens are made of different types of granite. Compared with the Badlands’ reddish-brown, fine-grained Carnelian granite, the Black Hills’ Rockville Beige granite appears grey and is composed of a mixture of large crystal sizes and colors. The granite’s composition makes carving a design into its surface more difficult.

“There’s not so much contrast between the different textures and the carved details are not seen clearly because of the mixture of colors and large crystals. The lines visually become kind of ambiguous compared with the Badlands stone, which has an even, finer grain and when you polish it, the color and shapes become very clear.”

Yuki will experiment with different approaches to the Rockville Beige on a batch of 1-foot by 1-foot carving samples from Cold Spring, the Minnesota-based company that supplied the granite.

“From time to time I’m just looking at this piece and trying to imagine what I could do with it,” he says. “But there’s always something coming. That’s the fun part, the problem solving. That’s the way I try to enjoy myself, anyway,” he adds, smiling.

For inspiration, Yuki reads and studies pictures of the natural history of the Black Hills. “The Black Hills have many species of plants and animals,” Yuki says. “I want to use them very minimally in my design, but the Black Hills have a lot of variation, possibilities, a lot of life compared with the Badlands.”

Yuki says that Tom Thorson, an artist based in Hill City, recently sent him an interesting link to a website about fungi and their role in the ecosystem. (Click here to visit the site.) “Tom has been really trying to inspire me from the very beginning of this project. He sends me a lot of information and many images of nature around this region. He also has introduced me to many people, too.”  

If you would like to send Yuki an inspiring image or message, click the button in the upper right corner or send to

Read more by the artist about his original design concept for Passage of Wind and Water.






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