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Yunogo Activities: Glass making at Glass Studio TOOS

16,Aug 2015 Activities in Yunogo

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Glass is so ubiquitous in our daily lives that it is almost taken for granted. At Glass Studio TOOS, the glassblowers wield their craft masterfully to produce functional objects of great beauty. From cups with minimalist patterning to small yet striking kanzashi, and from dainty dangling earrings to bold glass quills, every object produced at the studio is unique and usable. The skill of the glassblowers is evident in every object, and it is almost impossible not to feel at least a small measure of awe for the craftsmen when handling and appraising their creations.

Now, you can try making your own glass object, with the expert aid and instruction of the glassblowers at Glass Studio TOOS.

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The session begins with deciding what you would like to make and the shape you would like it to be. Currently, you can choose from (left photo, clockwise from left) a rock glass, a round glass, a vase, a tumbler, and a sake glass. Then, you can choose if you would like to add colours (right photo, 12 colours to choose from) to the object, as well as a bubble line. Once everything has been finalised and paid for, the glassblower gathers the materials and prepares the work area for the session.

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Before stepping into the work area, you will be helped with putting on protective arm covers and gloves; this reduces the risk of being burned by the glass, which is worked in a furnace that reaches temperatures of up to 1,400 °C. Next, you will be invited to sit on the work bench, where the glassblowing process will be explained, and the methods of holding the tools and using them will be demonstrated. Then, you will be invited to try holding the tools and imitating the ways they should be used when making glass for a few times, so as to get a feel of the way things will go before the actual process. After you have tried everything out for a few times, it’s time to start making the glass!

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The glassblower first forms the base of the object and then takes the mass of molten glass out of the furnace, rotating it slowly to ensure that it does not lose its form. The molten glass is shaped by being rolled on a steel table; this may need to be done several times, in between each time the glass will be returned to the furnace for reheating so that it remains malleable. Colours and the bubble line may be added after the preliminary shaping of the glass, if they were chosen. During this initial stage, the glassblower may demonstrate what happens if you stop rotating the glass (it loses shape and starts to droop off the pipe rather alarmingly); they may also invite you to try rotating the glass, or returning it to the furnace to experience the temperature in front of the flames (pictured above).

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When it is time, you will be invited to shape the glass by blowing into the pipe. The glassblower will rotate the rod to keep the pressure even, whilst you are given instructions as to how to blow into the pipe. As before, it may be necessary to blow into the pipe several times before the glass is shaped satisfactorily, and in between each blowing the glass will be returned to the furnace for reheating when it becomes too hard to shape.

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Next comes giving the glass a neck and a base so that it can be transferred to another rod for the final processes. First, you will be instructed to create the neck of the glass, using a tool called a jack near the end of the pipe to pinch the glass whilst rotating it. When a neck narrow enough has been generated, you will be handed a wooden board. You will be instructed to press the board to the end of the glass whilst rotating the rod, so as to generate a flat base for the glass object. Once the shape is satisfactory, the glass will be transferred to the other rod, and then the neck of the glass will be cut, and it is time for the finishing touches.

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The final step involves using the jack to open up the glass to the desired width. Inserting the jack into the hole left by cutting the neck off, the jack is gently opened up whilst the glass is rotated. When the glass is wide enough and the shape is deemed satisfactory, the glass is cut off from the rod holding it, and the piece is complete!

The cost of the glassblowing experience starts at ¥3024 for a transparent, colourless glass, and there are additional options which can be chosen at an extra cost, such as ¥216 for each additional colour, ¥324 for a special mix of all the colours, or ¥216 to add a bubble line. The glassblowing is done individual by individual, and the whole experience takes 20 minutes. The complicated processes are handled by the professional glassblower who will be supervising and instructing you. There is no need to worry about being put on the spot and expected to do something beyond your abilities; the instructions are easy to follow, and a lot of encouragement is given throughout. After the object is completed, it has to be cooled slowly at the studio, but it will be ready for collection by the next day.

Why not try creating your own unique glass souvenir? Sessions have to be reserved by telephone, and you can reach Glass Studio Toos at 0868-73-6115, or email Kifu no Sato with your inquiries and we can help you with your reservation.

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