Visiting the studio of an artisan is one of my privileges as a writer, and also the most beloved aspect of my job. I’m always impressed with the way an artisan works, their well-organized processes, their techniques, and their confidant demeanor as professionals in the studio. I am unable to take my eyes off of the artisan in these moments.
In January, I visited the atelier of glass artist Kazumi Tsuji of factory zoomer in Kanazawa. I was especially excited to see her glassblowing demonstration right in front of me. After wrapping her hair back with a bandana, Tsuji-san started by putting a steel blowpipe into a furnace to catch molten glass on the end of the pipe. An assistant then blew into the pipe to expand the liquid mass. Tsuji-san simultaneously rolled the pipe on a bench to start forming a shape, and placed it back into the furnace to heat again – a process called bench blowing. She repeated these steps again and again.
Noteworthy was the teamwork between Tsuji-san and her staff. While her assistant was kneeling to blow in the pipe, Tsuji-san shaped the piece with large iron tweezers. With great coordination and subtle hand adjustments, they were creating functional glassware. Not only was I mesmerized by the process of transforming molten glass into something like a pitcher, I was also struck by their deliberate movements – accurate, fluid and beautiful. I thought I’d like to watch them for hours.
It’s a well-known fact that a handcrafted object is precious but through my job interviewing dozens of artisans, I’ve come to realize that the work and devotion that goes behind the craft is beyond what can be imagined. After an artisan’s studio visit, I can’t help but to appreciate their work anew. In addition, learning an artisan’s philosophy, knowing their history, and seeing their passion and energy, makes my perspective on their craft change entirely; I start to feel more connected with their work as each piece was created with love. I hope I can share this feeling with readers through my interview with Tsuji-san.
The interview was conducted in English and Japanese. Both languages are published so as to not lose any meaning in translation for native readers.