For Ryuichi Kumakura, a 70-year-old cut-glass artisan, finding young workers eager to learn and preserve the traditional Japanese craft is the least of his troubles — showing them how to engrave exquisite pieces of glassware with precision is what matters most.
Having a decent "business mind that evolves with the times" is also vital in the field of traditional crafts, he says. Kumakura began selling Edo-kiriko hand-cut glass directly to customers about 30 years ago. It was a rare move back then for the industry to rely on a wholesale system while artisans themselves focused on production.
Edo-kiriko is a type of traditional cut glass originating in Edo (the former name of Tokyo) toward the end of the Edo Period (1603-1868). "Kiriko" means "faceted" in Japanese, and refers to the multitude of decorative patterns that are engraved on the surface of the glass using grindstones and other tools. Using only rough outlines as guides, artisans carve the detailed but accurate lines freehand.