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Patina: From photo top, this deep dish (18.5 x 7 centimeters), sake cup (7.5 x 6 centimeters) and bowl (13 x 6 centimeters) with black base and silk-thread pattern, ¥50,000 each, are by Masao Adachi. Applying an original technique, Adachi mixes a special blend of materials to produce the black glass, which he builds up in multiple layers while firing each in turn. The result is a rare vessel that changes its appearance over time, acquiring more luster the more it is used. |
Patina: From photo top, this deep dish (18.5 x 7 centimeters), sake cup (7.5 x 6 centimeters) and bowl (13 x 6 centimeters) with black base and silk-thread pattern, ¥50,000 each, are by Masao Adachi. Applying an original technique, Adachi mixes a special blend of materials to produce the black glass, which he builds up in multiple layers while firing each in turn. The result is a rare vessel that changes its appearance over time, acquiring more luster the more it is used. |

ORIGINALLY AN ARCHITECT, MASAO ADACHI SAYS HE BEGAN STUDYING GLASS AS PART OF HIS EXPLORATION OF SPACE AND FORM IN ARCHITECTURE. IT WAS MEANT TO BE A BRIEF DABBLE, BUT HE GREW INCREASINGLY CAPTIVATED BY THE BEAUTY AND FREEDOM OF A MATERIAL CAPABLE OF UNDERGOING SUCH DRAMATIC TRANSFORMATIONS IN SHAPE AND APPEARANCE. BEFORE HE KNEW IT, HE HAD WANDERED SO FAR INTO THE WORLD OF GLASS THAT THERE WAS NO WAY BACK. NOW, HE DEVOTES HIS LIFE TO WORKING WITH GLASS, CREATING OBJECTS THE LIKES OF WHICH HAVE NEVER BEEN SEEN BEFORE.

THERE IS SOMETHING SOFT AND FEATHERY ABOUT ADACHI’S CREATIONS — CHARACTERISTICS ONE RARELY ASSOCIATES WITH GLASS. BUT WHEN HE BEGAN DEVELOPING THE SERIES OF WORKS THAT SHOWCASE WHAT HE CALLS HIS SILK-THREAD PATTERN, HE SAYS THE IMAGE HE HAD IN MIND WAS OF A COCOON, THE SOFT YET ROBUST SHELTER A SILKWORM SPINS OUT OF INNUMERABLE SUPERFINE FIBERS. PERHAPS, THEN, “SOFTNESS IN GLASS,” TO BORROW ADACHI’S OWN WORDS, IS INDEED THE PERFECT WAY TO DESCRIBE WHAT HE IS STRIVING FOR.

WHEN ADACHI BEGAN STUDYING GLASS, HIS TRAINING WAS FOCUSED ON THE CUTTING PROCESS USED FOR KIRIKO GLASS, ON LEARNING TO CARVE THE STRAIGHTEST LINES POSSIBLE. BUT DURING A MONTHLONG VISIT TO THE CZECH REPUBLIC, WHERE HE TRAVELED TO LEARN ABOUT BOHEMIAN GLASSMAKING TECHNIQUES, HE CAME TO AN IMPORTANT REALIZATION.

“THE ROOTS OF CUT GLASS ARE IN EUROPE,” HE EXPLAINS. “THERE’S NO POINT IN COPYING THEM. RATHER THAN DO THAT, I WONDERED IF I COULD EXPRESS IN GLASS THE SAME PLIABILITY, AND TRANSFORMATION OVER TIME, THAT ARE SUCH A BIG PART OF JAPANESE POTTERY’S APPEAL.”

Gentle touch: Cutting with a very small blade, Adachi begins at the mouth of the vessel, the opposite direction of conventional glass-cutting technique. His approach demands supreme care, because a momentary lapse of attention is all it would take for the weight of the glass to drive the blade catastrophically deep.
Gentle touch: Cutting with a very small blade, Adachi begins at the mouth of the vessel, the opposite direction of conventional glass-cutting technique. His approach demands supreme care, because a momentary lapse of attention is all it would take for the weight of the glass to drive the blade catastrophically deep.
Hair’s breadth: Masao Adachi carves fine lines into glass to create his unique silk-thread pattern. |
Hair’s breadth: Masao Adachi carves fine lines into glass to create his unique silk-thread pattern. |

HOWEVER, ADACHI HAD NEVER SEEN THE KIND OF GLASS HE ENVISIONED. AFTER MUCH DIGGING AROUND FOR INSPIRATION, HE FINALLY HIT ON AN ANCIENT TECHNIQUE CALLED SAGGING. HE EXPERIMENTED WITH HEATING THE SAME PIECE OF GLASS TIME AND AGAIN, SOFTENING IT JUST ENOUGH SO THAT IT DROOPED UNDER THE FORCE OF GRAVITY, EVENTUALLY ACQUIRING A LOVELY NATURAL CURVE. THEN, HE ATTEMPTED TO FASHION THE RESULTING FORMS INTO OBJECTS THAT WOULD BE BOTH LIGHT AND EASY TO USE. NEXT, HE TOOK GLASS THAT HAD BEEN CUT SO IT WAS NO LONGER TRANSPARENT AND DETERMINED THE HEATING TIME REQUIRED TO MELT ONLY THE SURFACE TO PRODUCE A LUSTROUS EFFECT. HIS ULTIMATE OBJECTIVE — TO GIVE CUT GLASS A GENTLER, MORE FLUID QUALITY — IS ACHIEVED IN SUBLIME FASHION IN HIS SILK-THREAD-PATTERN SERIES.

A TEA-CEREMONY BOWL ADACHI CREATED WITH THIS PATTERN WON HIM PARTICULARLY HIGH PRAISE. MEANWHILE, ADACHI SAYS THAT HIS NEXT GOAL IS TO CREATE A FOOTED WATER BASIN. WHATEVER HE APPLIES HIMSELF TO, THIS IS ONE ARTIST WHO CAN BE EXPECTED TO CONTINUE OVERTURNING LONG-STANDING ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THE EXPRESSIVE POTENTIAL OF GLASS.

Sachiho Ii contributed the text for this article. Styling by Tamiho Yokose, food preparation by Kanako Kubo.

For more insight into Japan’s culture, arts and lifestyle, visit int.kateigaho.com.

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