GLASS SHOW with Naru <Inoue Naruhito>
September 3 & 4, 2022
11 am – 5 pm
At The Den on Laurel Street
205 Laurel Street, #104
San Diego CA 92101
For more than two decades, Japanese glassblower Inoue Naruhito, known as Naru, has been fascinated by glass, the raw material of his work. “When I create work, I pay special attention to how light occurs in the work I make,” he says. “I think about how my work refracts and reflects light, and the unique lens effects.”
Naru’s work is sinuous and colorful, carrying unique meditative qualities, like an enchanting sea jelly bursting with life. “I want to make work that seems to have sprung out of the earth, or suggest a ripening fruit,” he explains. “Even though they’re manmade, I want to evoke the notion of natural objects that has existed on earth from the ancient past.”
Naru first became interested in glass while traveling alone in Morocco over 20 years ago. Seeing that he had brought a camera, a local friend asked him to document the “Festival of Sacrifice.” “When they brought out a sheep, I assumed that they were going to shear it,” he said. “I was so startled when they started slaughtering it. I wanted to cover my eyes, but somehow, I could maintain my calm through my camera lens.” It was this emboldening effect of seeing the world through glass that stuck with him.
After returning to Japan, Naru visited a local glass studio to learn more about glass. He also discovered that his name “Naru” means “fire” in Arabic. “I felt a sense of destiny because the shape of the glass is changed by melting it with fire,” he says. Eventually Naru signed up for his first glassblowing class at Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle, Washington. “I boldly signed up for their summer session with almost no experience,” he says. But this fearless act allowed him to build friendships with fellow artists at Pilchuck and drove him to seriously pursue the craft.
In 2002, Naru joined the Toyama Institute of Glass Art. After graduating from the institute, he continued to hone his skills by working for various glass artists until 2011.
Nature is the source of inspiration for Naru, and he is immersed in it in Taketa, where he set up his glass studio in 2015. A small country town of less than 20,000 people in Oita prefecture in Kyushu, Taketa is an ancient castle town famous for its soda hot springs and magnificent panoramic plateau on sediment from the Mount Aso volcano.
Like other small Japanese towns in the countryside, Taketa’s population is aging and shrinking. But what is special about this town is its unique program to promote settlement by young and motivated craft artisans through subsidies. “In 2012, I built my own studio in Yokohama, my hometown, but Taketa invited me, so I decided to move here with my family three years later,” Naru said.
Taketa attracted enough artisans over the years to be known as a town of crafts and beautiful nature among Japanese tourists. Naru’s well-established glass studio –called Magma Glass, in homage to the adjacent Mount Aso— is a great success story providing local employment and attracting craft tourism.
“After I arrived here, I wanted to create work using local materials,” Naru explains. “And because it is Taketa, I wanted to use bamboo.” “Taketa” literally means “bamboo fields.”
Through trial and error, Naru devised a method to cure bamboo to use as molds for glassblowing. Now, his main line of work is made using these bound bamboo molds that create beautiful soft curved lines. He named the series “Kaguya”, after the bamboo princess Kaguya, who was born from a segment of bamboo in the old Japanese folklore, “The Tale of The Bamboo Cutter” (竹取物語).
The other line of work that Naru passionately pursues include lamps and candle holders that he began making after the destructive earthquake in Japan in 2011. “Soon after the earthquake, there were widespread power outages and electricity conservation requests,” he recalls. He also added that since the pandemic, there has been renewed interest in lanterns in Japan. He says that it is probably because more people spent time outdoors or went camping, and they needed a reliable light source without electricity. “I thought that maybe it is also because fire is a source of comfort during this time of crisis.”
For the Labor Day weekend pop-up at the Den on Laurel Street, Naru will bring over 130 pieces of his work from Japan that will be shown in the U.S. for the first time. He will be at the Den throughout the two-day event. Join us to meet this prolific artist, who is also playing a big part in revitalizing a beautiful town in Kyushu through creativity.