Kawasaki, JP

Kawasaki, JP

Sunday, 27. April 2014

A visit to the first Japanese glass manufacturer!

Our final week at Aja Glass came to an end yesterday. At 10pm on the dot, we finished and today we packed all of the glass pieces we had made into five parcels.

Last Friday we had a really exciting day when we visited a few glass studios and a manufacture in Tokyo city with our friend, Rie. First stop was a casting and engraving studio, a beautiful bright and high ceilinged building. Left of the entrance there is a gallery space and behind that there are two smaller rooms which can be used as studios. Next door there are three different sized furnaces for melting glass. In an adjoining room there is a sanding machine, further along an office and another room with two work benches for drawing and fiddling about.

The artist who owns this complex welcomed us and told us that they run weekly courses that anyone can attend, and also work on a number of different projects. As part of his next project, there were lots of coloured glass shards neatly laid out on the gallery floor. They will become a glass window for a Tokyo restaurant. He also gave us the tip, to take a look at the small glass engravers next door. There they produce the traditional engraved whisky tumblers in the typical ruby red and blue colours. From there, it was a 10 minute walk to the glass company, Shotoku.

Shotoku is a medium sized company with 40 staff. 30 are glass makers who were busy working around a central furnace which has a number of openings. They form small teams in which they work together on one product. The first one blows in the pipe and so forms the first glass bubble on the end. The second person then takes over and picks up more glass from the furnace which he then blows into a graphite mould. Everyone works in a very exact manner, the glass is very thin and the weight must be absolutely correct. Around the different work stations runs a kind of mini chairlift, in which the mould blown glass is collected when knocked off the pipes. Another person picks up all the glass from here for cooling. In the cold shop two women sand off the pipe mark and after that other staff either sand or polish the rims. The final stage is the quality control, boxing up and storing in the basement. The son of the Managing Director gave us a guided tour of the whole factory, with Rie translating everything. As she is fluent in Japanese as well as German, this was pure luxury for us. To end, he showed us the showroom in which every product is neatly displayed. There is one example piece of every product line along with a miniature model of their glass furnace. We both really liked their designs, it’s a fine design with a clear and simple shape.