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Fresco, Q + A

01/06/23
Takeshi Tsujino has been crafting glass in the Izumi city of Osaka Japan for nearly 20 years.  After attending an exhibition on contemporary glass he chose to pursue a career working in the medium.  We spoke with Takeshi below about how his surroundings affect his work, the laborious process that is glass blowing, and the other form he would work in if he were to start all over.

TPE: Where are you currently based ?

Takeshi Tsujino: We are an Osaka based glass maker in Japan, everything is handmade. Our main studio is in Izumi city in Osaka, and our new branch studio was just opened in Wakayama last month.

TPE: What is it about your surroundings and where you are based that affects and shapes your work ?

TT: We have four seasons that are very distinctive on the mainland of Japan. Every season carries its own light and air that reflects the humidity and other things like dust from the desert in China. The different natural light shows different colors and shadows in daily life. Japanese people love to enjoy the changing of the seasons, so they often take something seasonal that represents the time of the year from nature into their routine to feel the law of nature. I am aware that a lot of people appreciate the clearness of the glass material but I had this desire to create glassware suitable for the Japanese style of table setting, as we use small plates and bowls for individual foods instead of serving many in one dish. My pieces reflect the lights and shadows of the Japanese environment. Kasumi is the name of the hazy shade of the light which is typically seen in the spring time in Japan.

TPE: When and how did you get into glass art ?

TT: I started my glass-making career in college, when I was studying product design in Osaka, Japan. When I visited an exhibition of contemporary glass art that was held at the museum nearby where I was living as a teenager, I decided to pursue my career in glass.

TPE: Glass art is a laborious process, can you tell us a little bit about the steps that go into creating a piece of finished glass ?

TT: We believe that the traditional way of glass blowing is the best method to produce blown glass. No molds are used and everything is free-hand made. At first, we gather glass from the furnace and apply colored glass powders (layers), and then case it over with another round of glass. The glass bubble is rolled on the steel table and we use wet newspapers to shape and control the temperature of the glass before it is blown up. As the glass bubble is blown to be a shape, the bottom half of the work is formed and it is broken off from the pipe and transferred onto another steel rod. Then we apply the color glass to wrap the mouth rim so it expands to a thin line as the glass bubble opens up into a bowl or a plate shape. The works are kept in the oven overnight after the pieces are blown, it is necessary to cool them down to room temperature slowly otherwise they would break because of the thermal shock. We inspect them individually after the cooling process.

TPE: How many people currently work in your studio ?

TT: 10 full time, and 4 part time.

TPE: The colors used in Fresco pieces are so unique and special, what leads to this ? Is this driven by the material or your personal choice?

TT: Unlike in pottery, where you can achieve several different effects through the mixing of glazes, colors in glass will appear pretty much the same as you see in the material when the piece is done. So I carefully choose the colors and apply them in a very particular way to achieve the color of the work.

TPE: Here in the US, ceramics has exploded, with many people experimenting and dabbling into it, but glass blowing not so much, why do you think this is?

TT: My answer to your question is... first of all there are fewer people involved in glass-making compared to those who are making or handling ceramics, and there is a long history of making objects in clay so people are more familiar with it than glass.

About 10 years ago, traditional Japanese food was registered as an intangible Cultural Heritage. That drew people’s attention and interest in Japanese food more than before. Most people’s interests were about the benefits of eating Japanese food, but some were drawn to how we set the table for meals, or the way they are served, what kind of plates, dishes, bowls, cutlery and so on. I must admit that there is a variety of tablewares that are ceramics, so many different clays, glazes, and the way of using materials is so diverse. Naturally, you would be more exposed to ceramics over some of the other things made with different materials. Also, ceramic wares are traditionally aboriginal and it’s based on clays that are dug out in specific region, so Japanese ceramics unintentionally became collectable items from the beginning.

We don’t have a long history of making or using glassware in Japan. The studio glass was introduced to Japan in the late 70s by American glass artists. It was comprehended as fine art rather than functional art which limited the popularity of glass as a material for the craft. About half of the century went by and I now see more people are producing functional glass, becoming more of  a trend in the last decade.

TPE: If you could choose another medium to work in, what would it be ?

TT: Ceramic :)

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