Yoshiki Sugioka, Glass Artisan
Born on October 19th, 1963, Mr.Sugioka has been a part of MultiGlass ever since he was 18. His hobbies are fishing and baseball. In the case of baseball, he loves it so much that he’s currently serving as the coach of the local junior baseball team. There are no words more fitting to describe him with than “gentle” and “a true artisan.”
The MultiGlass workshop is located at the auspicious location of being right next to the famous Miyajidake Shrine, a place that enshrines a god of prosperity in business. The name ‘MultiGlass’ is an abbreviation of ‘Multiple Layer Glass,’ which refers to the technique of overlapping different-colored layers of glass. The distinctive characteristics of the products include their roundness and vivid colors.
The small MultiGlass business has a total of 4 artisans, including Sugioka. “We offer a large variety of products, ranging from ornaments to tableware. It takes at least 10 years for someone to become a first-rate artisan here at MultiGlass,” Mr.Sugioka told us. MultiGlass’s products range all the way from figures of the zodiac, owls, dragons, decorative samurai helmets, and dolls for Hinamatsuri, to coffee cups, shochu glasses, bowls for Japanese tea ceremonies, chopstick rests, and other daily necessities. There were more than 300 items on display at the exhibition area next to the workshop.
The workshop was lined with several large kilns and filled with hot air. The glass is created by first putting the raw materials into a melting furnace that goes up to 1200°C. It is left there for 10 hours. After that, the glass, which is now red-hot, is wound out with an iron pipe. The artisan then applies layers of colored glass on top and begins to shape the glass. With well-used tools in hand, the artisan plucks at this part, stretches that part, and makes holes here and there. When the glass cools, it is re-heated through a small kiln. A torch is used to apply heating to specific areas. The lump of glass gradually takes form under the deft hand of the artisan. When the product is done, it is detached from the iron pipe, then cooled inside a lehr, which is a kiln that can gradually change its internal temperature. It takes about 24 hours for the glass to cool down to room temperature. The reason why the glass has to be put inside a lehr to cool down and not just left in the open is because the sharp difference in temperature would cause it to crack. After retrieving the product from the lehr, its surface is brushed up with a polisher. Only after it passes a final inspection is the product finally ready to be shipped.
When making a new product, in most cases the artisans also participate in the design process. “We pay great consideration to how the product looks. Not just from the front, but also from the sides and the back. Even if the same person makes the same items twice, the end product might give off very different expressions. For us, this is where it is difficult, but it is also the charm of hand-crafted products.” Lastly, we asked Mr.Sugioka about his vision for the future.
“I want to be able to make bigger products. There is a limit to our kilns, so we have to glue the different parts together. The size of our kilns limits the size of the products that we can create in one go, so we have to combine several parts together to make bigger products. Also, as an experience artisan with another 30 more years down this path, I want to broaden the possibilities of MultiGlass.”