My wish is to develop modern designs inspired by traditional craftsmanship. That’s why I occasionally visit Shokunin (Japanese for “masters”) to get inspired by their work and get a glimpse of their techniques.
Recently I went to Zao to make my own glass in the glass studio “Kirlo”.
Before I got to work, Sayuri Matsuda showed me some sample glasses in different shapes and colours, from which I “put together” my personal glass.
Then Eiji Shiga showed me the tools and the steps to do with them. Since you have to be quick when glass blowing, we went through everything first without glass. Then he held the blowpipe in the furnace and retrieved it with a tip of glowing glass. Of course, since I had no experience in the craft, he was instructing every step while holding and rotating the pipe (rotating is necessary so that the liquid glass does not lean towards the ground). Since the glass cools and hardens relatively quickly, you have to hurry, or (as in my case) hold the pipe in between times in the furnace to heat the glass.
I can’t repeat every single step because they repeated many times:
- blow in the pipe to make the glass bulge
- shape with tools
- hold in the furnace
When the glass ball was still relatively small, stained glass patches were added. Later in a next step, the small bubbles were created, which wind around the glass like a ring. For that you roll the glass in sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda. The chemical reaction causes these bubbles, clever isn’t it?
When the glass is ready, it is put in the cooling oven. Inside it is still relatively hot, so that the glass can cool slowly. In fresh air it would cool down too fast and crack.
After that, I was able to watch the two artists doing their work for a while. Look for yourself and enjoy:
How do you imagine the consistency of molten glass? I think when you watch the masters, it always looks very soft and viscous. In fact, as far as I could tell with the tool, it still felt pretty hard, especially the more it cooled down. Finding out yourself how much pressure you have to apply to the material in order to bring it into a particular shape is even more interesting than just watching. Therefore, I recommend everyone, is it glass blowing or another technique, try out with real masters.