In Japan, Artisans Create ‘Cut Glass From Edo’
“When I was younger, the first thing I remember about Japan was the cut glass, and now as an adult I love that too,” says Kiyoshi Kato, who is currently working on a masterful handmade window pane in the northern city of Matsudo. Kato is one of a group of craftsmen in Matsudo who continue to craft beautiful glassware while also serving as mentors to those who want to pursue art in this area. The craftsmen do this while also working on more utilitarian projects as well, like the large window he has been working on. Kato admits to being enamored with the beauty that is cut glass. “I like that Japanese aesthetic,” he says. “At first my mother didn’t know how to make it, but finally she was able to do it, because she had an understanding of what I liked and what I wanted to do.”
Cut glass was originally created during the Edo period and has continued to be produced in Japan to this day. The craftsmen who make cut glass and work in the art of making cut glass are called “karateka.” Their work is not only appreciated for its beauty but also for its functionality, not just for its aesthetic qualities. “There are many ways to use it,” says Kato. “Sometimes people use it on the windows to make flowers bloom,” he says with a laugh.
Kato is one of the first to experiment with making cut glass while in high school. He studied abroad to pursue his interests in art while still continuing to work for a large company as an engineer. The company had no interest in the cut glass Kato was making, but he was able to find work in the company as an engineer while continuing to work at home. “When I was younger, everyone made things the Japanese way,” he says with a chuckle. “I wanted to do something unique and unique didn’t exist.”
For the first years, Kato