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Mt. Fuji Glass for new adults A gift giving for coming of age day in January

Published : January 9, 2017
Production area : Kujyukuri
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Making the Mt. Fuji Glass is highly difficult; backstory of development

Mr. Sugahara told “it was not difficult at all at the development phase, but it was so difficult to achieve that shape since glassblowing is not like mathematics where you can quantify “how many ml I need to blow for this number of seconds”. It is more based on human intuition. Thus only one artisan could make it and it took months until we could finally mass-produce it.”

Mt. Fuji Glass in progress; you can see the shape beautifully formed by the blowing technique.

Mt. Fuji Glass in progress; you can see the shape beautifully formed by the blowing technique.

Mt. Fuji Glass makes people happy because of its shape. You can enjoy the change of its look by the change of the foam and the amount of beer. That would be less fun without the clear smooth glass surface. It looks like it would be simple to make, but now I know it is not. I asked him what the key to achieving mass-production was. “Only repetition” he answered and continues “you can probably think of pottery as another example of handicrafts but glasswork is completely different from pottery, as we can never touch actual glass in production which goes up to some thousands degrees. So we touch and communicate with the glass indirectly using tools. If you want to be an expert in using such tools, all you can do is only practice”.

Variety of tools for glass production

Variety of tools for glass production

It takes 10 years to be an artisan who can handle every tool by himself. “We don’t ask any former experience when we look for a new recruit because we grow him or her into an artisan. That is our style. But one must have a true passion if he can think this could be his lifework. So we invite all the candidates to our workshop during the hottest and the harshest months in the summer time”

The secrete why young artisans all over Japan want to come and work here

The workshop attracts young recruits from all over Japan even though they know how hard it is to be an artisan. Among 30 artisans in the workshop, only few are from the local area and they are experts in their 50’s or older.

The attractive point for young people is their unique product development. The artisans themselves bring and develop ideas, make a design from the idea and make a design into a product.

“People tend to think of artisans as being stubborn men, but our strength is that we have young artisans. We have 8 female artisans and next year we have 3 more so in total there will be 11 female artisans in our workshop. There are a lot of female glass artists but I think it is quite rare in the world that there are so many female artisans in one workshop, like what we have here” Mr Sugahara told.

A newly employed female artisan who works with an expert as a duo

A newly employed female artisan who works with an expert as a duo

Based on the ideas of artisans, they release 200 new products annually.

“People are shocked when they know we release 200 new products a year but that’s not a big matter. Our artisans present many more ideas than that, so what is hard every year is to select 200 ideas among the tons of ideas.”

He explained that the date we visited was the day of the selection meeting, which takes place only once a year and which had only just finished. Mr Sugahara seemed a little tired but looked content.

“Even in the hot summer, our artisans are enjoying discussing possible ideas in their lunch time without taking a rest. There are much better alternatives if you just want to earn some money, but if you truly love working with glass, this workshop is ideal and brings so much fun”

Artisans can use any materials and tools freely even during their breaks or holidays.The only thing they are asked in return is to “create brilliant works”. There are also other ways that artisans can challenge their ideas. That is through the creation of new molds. A mold defines the finished work, but a mold is also produced by the artisan themselves as well as the boxes for complete works.

“Thus, they can challenge their ideas any time by creating a new mold. Of course there are many failed works, too but we believe this environment is the best to stimulate their creativity and that’s how we produce 4000 works annually”.

He is the only artisan specializing in molding. In order to make a mold in-house, he uses carbon instead of metal.

He is the only artisan specializing in molding. In order to make a mold in-house, he uses carbon instead of metal.

A warehouse stores various shapes of molds.

A warehouse stores various shapes of molds.

A workspace for box making: You can see cutting machines and relevant documents.

A workspace for box making: You can see cutting machines and relevant documents.

Mt. Fuji Glass, a gift for a youth who are ambitious

The workshop has a system where artisans can concentrate on their creativity and ideas, which can then be commercialized swiftly. I think this system is the reason why they can create and mass-produce creative products and thus attract young artisans from all over the country to their workshop. More precisely it has a great atmosphere of tolerance and passion that everyone enjoys creating challenging new works. Having known the backstory of the Mt. Fuji Glass and how it is produced in such passionate environment at Kuju-Kuri, I now believe the glass is really the best choice for celebrating the official beginning of adulthood.

I asked Mr Sugawara if it was ok to share all the processes of their production to the public, since the tour of Kuju-Kuri had delighted me so much and I wanted other people to learn about the art of glassmaking as well. Mr Sugawara answered

“I know your point. We were not that open to sharing information about our processes 20 years ago. But currently there are only 10 companies in Japan that actively produce a certain amount of glass works in the market and there is only one company each that produces crucibles and imports glass materials respectively. So as the situation gets worse, we may not be able to continue working this way in the future. So now we are happy to share our knowledge and skills as we hope that will contribute to a possible rise in the market.”

Mr Sugawara illustrated his first encounter Mr. Keita Suzuki, who is the designer of the prototype of the Mt. Fuji Glass (the name of glass initially was named as Fugaku 193kei) “I first met (Keita Suzuki) when he was a college student. We collaborated with students to make a product and he was very talented and left a great impression among the other students I had met. So we were happy to see and collaborate with him again. That’s how we started the project of the Mt. Fuji Glass.”

Mt. Fuji Glass is made by Sugahara GlassWorks. Inc. It is made by good adults who love and enjoy their work, where their spirit and wishes to the future are blown into the happy shape of Mt. Fuji. Buy one as a gift for ambitious youths.

Planning session starts anytime naturally.

Planning session starts anytime naturally.

<The product in the article>
Mt. Fuji Glass
Produced by Sugahara GlassWorks. Inc.
Online shop of SGHR Mail order site of Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten Co., Ltd.)

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Writer: Kanako Ojima
Photographer: Kanako Ojima, Ayako Yamaguchi

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