Glass by Nitta Yoshiko in our shop ->
There is no place to hide for an artist that works on handmade glass. The delicateness and transparency of the medium means that a maker’s lack of expertise, eye for detail, or even passion and dedication, are very obvious.
Fortunately, Japanese glassmaker Nitta Yoshiko has these attributes in abundance. She is a master creator of mouth-blown glassware etched with delightful, intricate patterns. Her work possesses a unique contemporary flare that features a compelling contrast between its frosted and transparent elements. Yoshiko points out that “transparency is a special aspect of glass that other medium do not possess. So I want to create work that lets that characteristic shine”.
I met Yoshiko at a craft fair in Osaka in the autumn of 2012. She made such eye-catching work that I wanted to find out more about this unassuming but immensely talented artist, and bring her work to the attention of a larger audience in the U.S.
From a very early age, Yoshiko had yearned to make a living as a craftsman. She wanted to follow in the creative footsteps of her father, who was an umbrella maker in Osaka.
When Yoshiko was in high school, she visited a glass art show in Osaka and instantly fell in love with the glasswork of the internationally famous glass artist Iezumi Toshio. After discovering that Iezumi taught glass at Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts, she enrolled in the university to study under him and thus, he became her mentor. At the university, Yoshiko also had the opportunity to take classes with Kodani Shinzo, a well-known Mingei glassmaker from Kurashiki.
This intensive training profoundly shaped Yoshiko’s views about what she wanted to do and how she would go about doing it. “After four years of studying glass in university, I developed a strong desire to create utilitarian wares out of glass.” Yoshiko has been doing exactly that by making glass objects for everyday use since her graduation in 2000.
“I want my work to be used daily, so I pay special attention to the thickness, weight, and size of my work”, Yoshiko explains. Her glass cups have thin rims that feel good on the mouth. They are also lightweight and the etching on the glasses allows for a solid grip that makes them very comfortable to hold. Yoshiko puts considerable thought into the design and engineering of her work, always striving to meet her exacting requirements.
Yoshiko creates her vessels through the ancient technique of free-blowing, a time-consuming process that adds to the charm of her work. Free-blowing does not use molds and so requires skill and experience to manipulate the shape of the glass using centrifugal force and gravity. The slightly distorted transparency of blown glass and its gentle waviness has an allure that can be found in an old farmhouse window or in quiet ocean ripples. The effect gives a warm appeal that cannot be replicated in mass-produced work.
A hallmark that denotes the high quality of Yoshiko’s work is the detailed etching of her glass. She achieves this by drawing fine patterns directly onto the glass surface with a special glue resist, which is then sandblasted. The patterns are time consuming to draw but the results are outstanding.
There is an often-heard argument that the nature of handmade craft requires sacrifices in engineering and usability. Yoshiko’s high-quality work and craftsmanship is an elegant counter-argument proving that this is simply not the case.