We are fortunate enough to be on great terms with all of our vendors; most of them are actually good, long-lasting friends. A more recent addition to our "Friendor" list is Koto Tsuchiya --the craftsperson and lady-boss behind HARRYS Glass. We're pleased to have her in our creative ranks, and even more pleased that we can share the interesting specifics of her process and personal history.
Better; for Living : When / how did you start working with glass?
Koto Tsuchiya : I started working with glass at 19. Until then, I was only generally interested in art. After graduating high school I went to a normal (non-art) university, but nothing I learned interested me. So, after three months, I quit university and was on NEET [Not in Education, Employment, or Training] for a while… like for a year? I was so sorry for my parents. They were really mad at me! Ha. One day, I saw some glass artists on a TV show, and at that moment I thought that "I have to do GLASS!" --that TV show changed my life!
B;fL : In what way did you begin --was it immediately your desire to make jewelry, or are you also interested in creating vessels?
KT : I had no experience in glass, nor any other material. I didn't learn art history, or know how to draw, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to get into an art university easily. So, I found a school specializing in glass (no entrance exam necessary!) and spent the next 6 years learning and practicing.
I used to make big art pieces and vessels, but am no longer able. My dream of becoming a glassblowing artisan (for vessels) ended when my pelvis was crushed in an accident 2009. Heavy machinery fell on top of me, almost crushing my spine. I had to spend about 6 months lying down in bed. It's miraculous that I am still able to move my arms & legs!
During my hospitalization I thought about quitting glass work, but I decided to continue glass torch work, which I could do sitting down. While recovering from my injury, I started to work on my "lace technique" more seriously.
B;fL : What was your first project? The first one you were willing to share with others?
KT : My first project was a leaf made of glass lace. I started exploring my lace technique after I found a leaf, which only had veins left. This leaf made me realize and appreciate the beauty that plants hold, even after death. I was captured by the beauty of nature.
I also started focusing on making precise shapes (i.e. the BONBON: sphere and CIRCLE necklace). I strongly believe in the importance of my own technical skill, and I have practiced to perfect my techniques.
B;fL : What would you consider as "themes" in your work? What inspires you, visually?
For both my products and art pieces, I consider the beauty of the nature (structure, color, texture etc…) as themes in my work. I'll take a walk and look out for beautiful natural objects, or search the internet and through books. Although humans have developed so much technology and make many beautiful things, we are still no match for the beauty of nature.
For my products, I place high importance on technical skill and versatility of the design, shapes, and uses. For my art works I forget the conditions that I mentioned above; instead I experiment, challenge myself, and play. I make what I want.
B;fL : Where do you work? Do you have a studio setup? What's it like?
KT : I have a studio in my parking space. I live in a rented house, so everything is temporary right now [emphasis ours]. I want, one day, to have my own house and studio --and have it the way I want!
B;fL : Where do you stand in terms of the use of color? Have you experimented much (or any) with it?
KT : I usually use transparent glass, simply because I like it the best [so do we]. But it doesn’t mean that I won’t use color. I’ll use color if it enhances a piece --though some colors aren’t suitable for the subtle, detailed process of lace making.
B;fL : Art or artisanship? Do you see any difference?
KT : There’s a lot to the ART v.s. craft/artisanship issue, but to be honest I don’t really care. Nowadays, anyone can call themselves an ‘artist’ or their work ‘ART’, no matter their technical skills. I strongly believe that having a high technical skill is very important. Deep knowledge of a material gives us more opportunity and possibility for creation. Whatever we call ourselves, we must always challenge ourselves to improve.