Edo Glass - Hiroko Nakamura
Edo Glass history can be traced back to the mid-Edo period. The popularity of Furin (wind chimes) and other small items crafted from transparent glass was growing. Eventually, Edo Glass made its appearance as glass with designs carved into the glass. Nakakin Glass was founded in 1948. Specializing in crafting colored Kise (layered) glass they have preserving Edo Glass's traditional craft for over half a century. Kingo Nakamura, the founder of the business, originally invented the Pokan glass-blowing technique that layers two colors of glass. Many modern glassware studios use his creative technique. Hiroko Nakamura has inherited these traditional practices while focusing on product design and honing her sandblasting techniques to produce modern glassware.
What is colored Kise glass?
"Colored Kise glass layers red, cobalt blue, purple, and other different colors of glass. Italian glassware studios were producing similar colored Kise glass, but our founder, Kingo Nakamura, believed there was a more efficient method to layer glass and invented the Pokan technique. First, you blow a thin outer layer of colored glass and place it in a special, heated furnace. While in the furnace, you blow a different colored glass inside the outer later. When taking the glass out of the furnace, it makes a "Pokan" sound; hence, the name. Patterns are then cut into surface of the glass or carved by sandblasting the surface. Doing so creates a beautiful contrast between the two colored layers. With a focus on colored Kise glass, we constantly attempt to bring inventive ideas to reality in order to create a diverse variety of beautiful glassware."
How do you color the glass?
"You don't dye the glass. Rather the color comes from a chemical reaction with metal. The glass will first turn cobalt blue then red. Recently, we have been able to create light blue and green glass. Cobalt blue comes from a reaction with cobalt and red is a reaction with copper, tin, iron, and another seven different types of metals. The metal mixture is a corporate secret."
I was surprised at how hands-on the processes are.
"Oh, yes! Some glassmaking processes include Oshigata, where you pour the melted glass into a mold, and other automated processes. We, on the other hand, specialize in blowing glass. Professionals blow each and every one of our crafts individually. Thirty years ago, there were many glassware companies in Tokyo but most of them are gone today. I am very grateful that we have been able to nurture professionals who adhere to the traditional glassblowing techniques."
Is blowing glass difficult?
"I think so. Glass is a unique material that doesn't always take shape the way you intended it to. If you want make the opening even a centimeter wider, the techniques you have to use will differ greatly. When using the Pokan technique, you have to allow the colored layers to mold the one another perfectly, or else air bubbles will get in between the layers. It takes skilled craftsmen at least ten years to perfect this technique."
Where do you sell Nakakin Glass?
"Our colored glass is often purchased by Kiriko (glass cutting) professionals and sandblasting artists. We also sell our original, finished glassware directly to end-users and online. They are often purchased to mark a special occasion."
How do you develop new products?
"My 'Upside Down Mt. Fuji' Sake cup, which was listed on the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's "The Wonder 500" for special regional products that should be internationally recognized, was inspired by imaging how to cut the base of the Sake cup to resemble Mt. Fuji. I frequently receive international and domestic orders for this very popular product."
Do you collaborate to create new products?
"I enjoyed collaborating with a university art student. Kiriko (cut glass) is a craft with many old, traditional patterns. I enjoyed using traditional crafting techniques to produce the student's refreshing and beautiful new ideas, such as a waxing and waning moon and constellations."
What would you like to craft in the future?
"I would like to create glass for the Tokyo Olympics. In fact, I'm currently attempting to create a lampshade that resembles the Olympic torch. Using LED lights, the lampshade is very beautiful. The Big Dipper constellation was considered to be a sign of good luck during the Edo period and I'm currently exploring the idea of cutting the constellation into glass."
Organizer: Atsuko Miyasaka
Born in 1944 in Tokyo. Began producing glassware in '84. Joined the Edogawa Traditional Crafts Preservation Society in '12. In '14, was awarded the Master Craftsman Award at the 31st Traditional Crafts Exhibit. Currently produces glass at and serves as the CEO and Chairperson of Nakakin Glass Co., Ltd.