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A glass artist who loves surfing glass32 in Nago City
post : 2017.02.01 08:00
“Making glass crafts is just like surfing because it is difficult to control. The various elements for glass crafting, like surf conditions, are not the same each time. Making exactly what you want is not easy, but at the same time that is one of the charms of making glass art,” said Mitsuru Gushiken, a glass artist who has been crafting his creations for about 18 years.
“Ruriko Toshima, a glass artist once asked me to fix her surfboard,” said Mitsuru. “In exchange, I asked to work at her studio. I had two days off a week and my shift at the studio started at noon. At that time, those hours allowed me plenty of time to surf and I was also interested in creating things. It was a great opportunity for me to absorb myself in the world of glass.” Even though he was not 100 percent into glass art in the beginning, it did not take long for him to get hooked.
Many varieties of glass cups and dishes are available to choose from. His primary product “Ao no Doukutsu (Blue Cave)” cups which can be seen everywhere are impressive with their vivid dark to sky blue hues. The special dark blue, which is close black is his trademark color. “If you use too much pigment, liquid glass will contain a lot of bubbles,” Mitsuru said. Much trial and error was involved in the perfection of his special dark blue.
Long Beach and Ring are also the popular styles. Long Beach has beautiful bubbles like sparkling wine and you can almost feel soft glass texture in your hand. Ring pieces are decorated with glass circles around the edges that give extra glitter to the design.
Mitsuru’s glass creations vary from daily use items to special occasion pieces for wedding gifts and more. He starts his day by firing up his kiln. While he waits for the temperature to climb to 1,300° C, he pulls out the crafts from the day before and checks individually. Once the kiln reaches the desired temperature, he begins to form his creations one by one.
Glowing molten glass from the kiln is entwined to the end of a rod. He quickly and deftly shapes this “gather” in a mold.
Mitsuru hand makes all of his molds in varying shapes and sizes. The handmade molds make possible the beautiful flowing shapes of each piece. He sometimes uses tent pegs to make molds. And of course he hand built his furnace as well.
By evening, he starts putting glass materials in the kiln for the next day. “I use empty awamori (Okinawan sake) bottles as my raw material,” Mitsuru said. “I break them into pieces which I put in the burning hot kiln.” He explains that recycled glass can be difficult to work with because it cools so quickly. “I need to shape the glass before it cools to avoid distortions,” he said. Many glass making traditions start with processing batch, which is a mixture of silica sand, sodium carbonate, sodium calcium and so on. Mitsuru uses recycled bottles following the Ryukyu glass making tradition.
Mitsuru’s partner, Yoshiko, says of him: “He is a person who acts without words. He does not talk much about his work, but I can see his efforts to improve is craft.” She says that young glass artists sometimes visit him and that Mitsuru always welcomes them and willingly passes on his knowledge and techniques.
Just as his elders taught him about glass when he was young—the way surfers share good waves—Mitsuru does not hesitate to share his experience.
“Lipped bowls are another one of our popular items,” Mitsuru said, and explained that glass bowls are usually more difficult to pour water from without spilling than bowls made from materials like metal or wood. “A craft specialist once praised Mitsuru’s design because of that,” Yoshiko added.
Mitsuru, who is a quiet artist type who enjoys the quiet challenge of riding the waves and perfecting his craft and Yoshiko, who is very cheerful, balance each other well.
Address: 7-19-29 Miyazato, Nago City, Okinawa
Okinawa CLIP photo writer: Noriya Fukuda