Welcome to our ‘spiral market selection’ interview series, where we look at living from the viewpoint of artists and creators engaged in craftsmanship for daily life. For our tenth interview, we spoke with glass artist Tomomi Kawakami.
──A fascination with what I can make with my hands
Both my parents come from families of artisans, so it was very natural for me to look for a way to work with my hands. Also, my dad’s hobby has always been visiting art galleries and exhibitions in department stores, and I’m sure those times spent going with him influenced me and sparked a fascinated for craftsmanship from an early age. As I admired various pieces, I realized that I wasn’t interested in art simply as objects of appreciation – I wanted to work as an artisan and make things with my own hands.
Even as a child, my grandmother often spoke to me about playing an active role in society by engaging in a craft. Perhaps I was quite an individualistic child and that’s why she recommended that kind of work. In my early 20s, I first came across glassware, then I worked at a glassmaker and now here I am. It occurred to me that I’ve spent half of my life with glass, and I imagine that I’ll still be wanting to blow glass even when I’m a grandmother.
──Glassware you use every day without hesitation
You can’t shape glassware by touching the materials directly. In my case, I blow glass pieces using cylindrical metal molds that I’ve made myself. It doesn’t always go to plan and then I have to fine-tune the glass.
My works are not pieces you should feel nervous about holding; they are for everyday use, so I’m always conscious about the price and whether a piece will fit with people’s lifestyles. When you gain certain skills you have a tendency to want to put them on full display – going extremely thin or really large – but I give my glassware certain thickness and shapes because I want people to use it without worrying. On pricing as well, I set my prices to allow people to buy two or three of the same item for everyday use.
I use test items in my own home. With glasses, I measure how much sake I can pour in, and how it feels to drink from if there’s a lot of ice. At first, I test them out thinking about different situations but towards the end, the focus switches to just enjoying my drink!
──Customers enjoying life, me loving glassmaking
When I’m not sleeping, I’m always working. I love the process of creating something and as long as I’m awake I can go on making things forever. I split my work into morning and afternoon: the mornings are for making smaller pieces when the furnace is not that hot; as the furnace heats up in the afternoon, I move onto making bowls and platters. As the day goes on, I get tired and my concentration starts to fade, so at the end of every day I make something that I can lose myself in – just one piece that I can make freely with no rules on size or shape. I call it my own “service time” and even if a piece gets a little out of shape, I let it take its own course. It’s in these moments that lampshades of all different shapes come about, taking on their own personalities. Customers enjoy life enhanced by the pieces I’ve made, and I enjoy making them.
Ideas for new pieces always come flying at me when I’m in the middle of making something. It probably relates to visiting so many art galleries from an early age, but rather than viewing things in my genre, I look at antique objects or images from different fields and they come to me as inspiration during production. The things I’ve seen pass through me, and over time they flow into my work.
Interview and editing by Spiral
Spiral Online Store is proposing some of Tomomi Kawakami items for sale.