NOTOJIMA, Ishikawa Pref. — A glass studio recently invited a craftsman from a country with a long tradition of glasswork to spend a year on this small island teaching the art of creating Czech-style glassware.
Stefan Kovacik, 50, a Czech glassmaker, arrived in March to share his expertise with craftsmen at the Notojima Glass Studio and help those learning to create works of art using the medium of glass.
Although he has learned only a smattering of Japanese since his arrival six weeks ago, Kovacik and his new Japanese colleagues seem to be able to communicate through their work together. Indeed, the artists at the studio have already learned a great deal from Kovacik.
Removing a hollow pole topped with a fist-size sphere of molten glass from the kiln, Kovacik shapes the cooling material by rolling it on a stand. Every now and then, he blows a little air through the pole to mold the glass into the shape that he is creating.
Again he returns it to the kiln, glancing at his assistant. Pulling the pole from the furnace again, he calls “Michi!”
Michi Imai, 26, an artisan at the studio, brings Kovacik more melted glass. Kovacik combines the two shapes before sculpting the concoction with scissors and returning it to the furnace. In a delicate and rhythmic manner, he repeats the process. In the same studio, other artisans work on their own glassware projects. There is little conversation.
About 20 minutes later, the end of Kovacik’s pole holds a glass plate some 20 cm in diameter. Wiping the sweat from his forehead, he points to the light blue design at the center of the plate and says with a smile, “Ume,” a flower of the Japanese apricot.
“Working with him and watching him create (works of) glassware one after the other gives me inspiration,” Imai said. “His skills — like his way of blowing (the glass) and the way he treats the works — really tell me about his long experience in creating glassware,” she said.
Notojima Glass Studio Co. opened in 1984 after the island, with a population of merely 4,000, was linked to the Noto Peninsula when construction of the Noto Ohashi Bridge was completed. The studio is run by a company that sells glassware at shops on the island and in Kanazawa and makes items to order. It serves as one of the tourist spots on an island where employment is largely in the fields of agriculture and fishing.
Kovacik was invited to Notojima by Tsuneo Yoshimizu, president of Notojima Glass Studio Co. and a glassware critic who hoped to learn from an artisan from a country that is famous throughout the world for its long tradition of creating glasswork.
Yoshimizu’s dream was fulfilled when Kovacik, who taught for about 20 years at a professional glassmaking school in the Czech Republic, agreed to take a one-year sabbatical to come to Japan.
“He produces really unique work, such as a piece of glass in the shape of a fish,” Imai said. “He says he wants to make works of art that relate to Notojima’s surrounding environment,” she said.
For his part, Kovacik said he is really enjoying his new life on Notojima and in Japan. “I like this place near the sea,” he said in a mixture of Japanese and English. “I’m enjoying learning about Japan, which is very far and very different from the Czech Republic.”
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