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Freestyle Glasswork Created by a Glass Wizard at “hou hou” (Motobu Town)
post : 2018.10.13 06:00
In Motobu, a town famous for the Churaumi Aquarium and the Kanhi Zakura cherry blossoms, there is an atelier/shop that creates and sells borosilicate glasswork, which is not very common in Okinawa. The shop’s name is “hou hou”, and its owner, Mr. Ryo Tsuda, travelled the world as he honed his skills at glasswork. After travelling through Paris, New York, Toyama, Hawaii, Germany, and Okierabu, Mr. Tsuda opened his shop here in 2014. Mr. Tsuda refers to himself as a ‘glass wizard’ and brands his creations as Freestyle Okinawan Borosilicate Glass. He is more of an artist than a craftsman, and treasures personal sense of emotion and feelings over tradition and style.
Borosilicate glass is a type of durable, heat-resistant glass and can be used to create delicate designs. It has a different attraction from the Ryukyu glassworks more commonly found in Okinawa, with items made from glassblowing techniques and using recycled bottles. The glass materials used for the borosilicate glasswork comes in the form of glass tubes, rods and panels, and the finished glasswork is very strong against heat and shock.
Mr. Tsuda creates a wide variety of pieces using his burner, from accessories like pendants and earrings to containers like mugs and goblets, as well as ornaments and various decorative objects. When creating his work, he truly is a wizard of glass; heating the glass with the burner at about 2,500 degrees Celsius, stretching and inflating various parts, cutting pieces by contraction caused by temperature change, adding opal-like coloring using vaporized pure silver, and engraving designs on the surfaces. Watching him turn the basic materials to wonderful art pieces was like watching a wizard at work, using a magical flame.
“When I was in Germany, I met a person working on the street, creating birds from pieces of glass as though it was magic,” Mr. Tsuda says. “A glasswork master I learned from used to always say to me, “Don’t hole up in a studio, get out there, get out to where the people are. You have to work like a rockstar, like an entertainer.’” So that advice and the experiences made Mr. Tsuda the wizard that he is today.
Upon returning to Japan, Mr. Tsuda began making glass pendants with psychedelic designs using the base techniques he acquired in Oregon, USA. These unique psychedelic designs and colors branched from the hippie movement in the late 60s and early 70s mainly in the US, and flourished in the glass pipes made by the hippies during that time. The pendant pieces have metallic decorations using gold, silver, and titanium on dichroic glass, and the mystical glitter is reminiscent of a small galaxy.
Displayed at his shop are cool accessories with an edge, and there are also more soft and sweet pieces as well. Among them are chopstick rests in the shape of ‘umibudo’ sea grape seaweed and alocasia plants, hair elastic with the famous steamed ‘manju’ bun from Shuri, and earrings in the shape of ‘jimami’ peanuts. These items related to Okinawa are cute like toys and have a special charm to them.
Speaking of toys, these rockets shown in the photo above are Mr. Tsuda’s personal recommendations. “I’ve worked a lot on these,” he explains, “I added different parts to improve them, like the wings and the nozzle.” The way he described the pieces was so innocent, like a boy describing his favorite TV character.
I glanced towards the next glass case and saw a very interesting display of what looked like golf tees. “Oh, those are mushroom sticks. They’re cool, aren’t they?” smiled Mr. Tsuda. He explained that you can stick them in the soil to decorate your planters, or place them on your work desk so you can glance at them once in a while and rest your eyes and take a little break. Some of his work, I initially thought, maybe a few would really get it and appreciate the sense of beauty and humor, but in fact, they’re very popular. I think that comes from the pure and natural charm of Mr. Tsuda who appreciates the fun in everything.
Hanging from the ceiling are glass decorations like planets, rockets, UFOs, lightning bolts, and water drops. Mr. Tsuda says he’s continued to produce these series of hanging decorations so that people can enjoy the sparkle of light on the glass while relaxing indoors. “This ornament is inspired by Saturn, but I like that many customers don’t see that. I like to have people look at my work and wonder what it is,” Mr. Tsuda explains. He recently has been inspired by plankton, he says. He hopes to capture the vibe of plankton and express them in his own style, rather than trying to create something that really resembles plankton.
“I just want to keep being excited with the pieces I make. I recently realized that I’ve been running around, trying to get my work done all the time. The act of creating had become something like routine work. I decided that I want to reduce my workload just enough to make ends meet, and do more in creating pieces that I really want to make, and dig deeper into my own world of expression. Even if those pieces seem insignificant to others, that’s what I want to do.”
He also shared the Okinawan Awamori liquor containers and cups that he’s really been into making these days. The small cups are designed to enjoy little tiny sips of Awamori at a time to fully understand the depth and quality of its taste. Together with Mr. Koji Higa, an Awamori concierge, they discuss what shapes are best to enjoy the taste, and they also add their own unique twist to add more fun to the containers. The Awamori cups that he has already created are much smaller than the regular Ochoco cups commonly used for Japanese sake, and now, he’s working on the Kara-kara container.
“I don’t think there really is a point for me to create glasswork that imitates the world of Ryukyu glass. No matter how wonderful it may be, I just don’t think I’m meant to pursue that path,” says Mr. Tsuda. “I want to connect the world to Japan and Okinawa with borosilicate glass. I’m more suited to creating things that’s out of the ordinary and with a touch of fun, rather than traditionally set styles. I hope to dig further within myself to awaken my senses and emotions to come up with more and more ideas, and to express those ideas in my work.”
The last piece he showed me was a wine glass with what looked like octopus legs, which really had that special warmth of a handmade item. He says that he likes to make things that are like animals, but not likened to real animals. That’s what makes his work so pop and fun, and also comical in their perceptions. These freestyle glassworks are definitely original creations by Mr. Tsuda, but I also felt that the charming characteristics of his work may also have been nurtured through the big-heartedness and gracefulness of Okinawa.
Address: 534-2 Izumi, Motobu Town, Okinawa
Business Hours: 10:00-18:00
Closed: Wednesdays and Thursdays
Okinawa CLIP photo writer Nobuya Fukuda