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Release | nobu Kawashima

Feel like a glass artist? A glass blowing experience in Otaru!


Otaru is famous for glass together with Otaru Canal and sushi. There are glass studios and shops all around the town, and it is fun to look at those glasses and to participate in glass making workshop! This time, I tried a glass blowing experience which made me feel like I became a glass artist!
小樽の浮き玉ツリー▲Glass making culture in Otaru developed from creating glass floats for fishing. There are objects inspired by glass floats appear at events in Otaru.  
I visited “Taisho Glass Gallery Kura” and “Otaru Handmade Glass Studio”. I booked the class by phone in advance, finished the registration at Taisho Glass Gallery Kura, then moved to Otaru Handmade Glass Studio to start the class. 
大正硝子ギャラリー蔵の看板▲Otaru Handmade Glass Studio is five to six minutes walk from JR Minami Otaru Station and one to two minutes from the famous sightseeing spot Marchen Crossroads. 

First, decide the shape and color of glass 

“Long glass? Round glass like a flower base?”
“Which pattern would you like? Cracks or bubbles?”
“What color would you like?” 
You first decide what kind of glass you want to make. The process of making will change depending on the design. 


I wondered which glass I would like by looking at the samples and decided to make two glasses: a short crack pattern blue glass and tall bubble pattern orange glass. 
Glass making will start after putting on a rental apron and work gloves! 


This is “the glass making experience”! I blew the glass!

The first procedure is putting small colored glasses to a piece of transparent hot glass which is put on a long cylindrical stick called blowing stick.
This is the most difficult procedure in glass blowing, and it is very hard to do well for beginners. So the artisan will do this for you. The visitors will take part from the next procedure. 
The next step is blowing! 
吹き硝子体験で吹いている様子▲Put mouth on the blowing stick and blow to distend the glass on the tip. 
The glass distends little by little as I blew gently and turned the blowing stick slowly. It was as I was watching at a mochi being cooked in slow motion. 
“Blow slowly to distend little by little, so it becomes the shape of a miniature bulb. Yes, you are doing well!” 
The artisan Kamiura taught me gently with a Kansai accent. He is from Osaka and is a professional artisan with 40 years of experience. 
吹き硝子体験で製作中のガラス▲It became like a miniature bulb! The shape becomes nice when it is blown slowly. 
There are few chances to blow, but the first one is the most important and needs a little power to blow. From the second time, blowing slowly and gently to distend little by little is the tip for creating a beautiful shape. 
吹き硝子体験の窯▲The glass piece becomes hard and difficult to manipulate when its temperature goes down. So the glass is put into the furnace from time to time. The temperature inside of the furnace is about 1,000 degrees! 
In the procedure to distend the glass, some parts will be taken by Kamiura. 
First is the procedure to put patterns. To make crack patterns, he put miniature bulb shaped glass into the water gently, and to make bubble patterns; he puts into sodium bicarbonate. 
吹き硝子体験での窯入れ風景▲When the glass is put into the furnace and turned, crack patterns and bubble patterns will be on the glass. To an amateur, it is a mystery why this procedure makes such patterns…

Pull the glass a little by little to make a tall glass, and shape the glass in round form to make a round glass.
吹き硝子体験で金型に押し当てている様子▲Put out from the furnace and push the hot glass onto the mold to shape the side and bottom of the glass. 
吹き硝子体験で加工する様子▲Kamiura shapes the glass, so it becomes easier to cut the top of the glass
吹き硝子体験で吹く様子▲Not everything is done by the professional; visitors blow the glass! 
After shaping the glass, we moved to the next procedure.


Handling is important! Felt like I became an artist!

The next step is shaping the top of the glass.
First, Kamiura put a different stick to the bottom of the glass and made the glass apart from the blowing stick. The part where cut from the blowing stick becomes the top of the glass.
Then, visitors take part! Sit on a chair, turn the stick with the left hand, and shape the top of the glass with a spatula on the right hand. 
吹き硝子体験で口元を加工する様子▲This procedure is very difficult for a beginner… At first, Kamiura turned the stick and visitors tried to use the spatula on the right to shape the glass. 

The tip in this procedure is not to stop turning the stick and put only slight pressure with the right hand. The shape of the glass becomes distorted if the stick stops moving or too much pressure is put onto the glass. Therefore, you need to concentrate on this process very hard.
After trying few minutes, Kamiura let us use our left hand to turn the stick.
吹き硝子体験で飲み口を加工する様子▲The shape of the glass changes by how I use my hands! I felt the strong feeling that I am participating in making a glass!
The workshop ends when we complete shaping the glass.
The glasses which had been in a furnace about 1,000 degrees have such a high temperature, so it needs to be cooled down. However, changing the temperature suddenly makes glasses crack so it must be cooled down slowly. Therefore, the finished product needs to be handed to visitors on the other day or mailed later. 
吹き硝子体験で作りたてのグラス▲The freshly finished glass had about 800 degrees temperature, and the color of the glass looks like dark brown instead of orange. The glass will be put into a storage about 430 degrees to cool down slowly. 
The glass blowing experience which visitors can take part in creating glass was only 30 minutes, but it made us feel like it was a nice day already. 


The fun part came a few days after!

Someone rang the bell of my apartment, and I received a package…!!
吹き硝子体験で作ったグラス▲I received the glasses made by me! 
It does not matter if the shape is bad! I don’t care what people say about the glass; this is a wonderful art piece to me! 
青いグラスを傾けたところ▲The shadows of crack prints are beautiful when it got lights.
グラスの泡模様の部分▲The bubble print was on the glass, too. 

When I received the finished glass, not only the sense of fulfillment on the day, I experienced glass blowing but also felt fulfilled a few days after! It gives happiness two times in one experience! 
A little ugly glass I made. Toasting with this glass will make my memories about the class and journey in Otaru come back. 
Glass blowing experience is the class to keep memories in your hands forever. This is highly recommended if you are traveling Otaru, where glass culture is left strong! 
  • Feel like a glass artist? A glass blowing experience in Otaru!