Glass Workshop <Say>

Snowflakes are in Full Bloom Inside This Sparkling Glassware

☆Snowflake blossoms welcome you in the Seven Stars

Sparkling Yukihana glassware in the Seven Stars. ■Sparkling Yukihana glassware in the Seven Stars.

In winter, seasonal wind brings cold air over the Sea of Genkai and bring snow in Fukuoka. Small snowflakes elegantly dance and cover the town of Fukuoka with a thin layer of snow. All travelers of “Seven Stars in Kyushu” are fascinated by the glass-sculpture that evokes such a scene. Small snowflakes elegantly shine and dance inside the glass with outstanding beauty. This mysterious glass combines the refined design specific to handcrafted glassware and a gentle warmth. It is called “Yukihana glass”.

☆Made-in-Fukuoka Glassware

In Sawara Ward (Fukuoka city), there is a small workshop nested between the mountains overlooking the city of Fukuoka. Hot air blows from the workshop just like the heat from a blistering desert and the sound of metal rustling echoes outside. Its name is “Glass Workshop ”. Inside the workshop, we can find a display of the shining “Yukihana glassware”.

“Glass Workshop <Say>” nested between mountains “Glass Workshop <Say>” nested between mountains ■“Glass Workshop ” nested between mountains

In this workshop that was set up to make Yukihana glassware the owner, a tall man of 186cm, is working on his craft. When he blows into his metallic blowpipe, the bright red fiery lump of molten glass at the other end starts deforming as if under a magic spell. The air of this man working away at the glass heated to over 1000°C speaks strongly of his craftsman skills. He heats endlessly and tirelessly the glass, inflates it, and shapes it.

Mr. Kosei Aoki, tirelessly making glassware. Mr. Kosei Aoki, tirelessly making glassware. ■Mr. Kosei Aoki, tirelessly making glassware.
The middle layer is coated with two kinds of glass powders. ■The middle layer is coated with two kinds of glass powders.

“The main feature of this glass is its three-layered structure, in which particles of soft glass are sandwiched between hard glass. Generally, it is considered taboo to combine two different glass properties. But I totally changed my mindset and finally succeeded in inventing this Yukihana glass,” says Mr. Kosei Aoki, a glassware artist. During the cooling process, tiny cracks appear on the surface of the middle layer, and each one forms the snowflake design. This is because two glasses with different strength have different thermal expansion and shrinkage ratios. In fact, this snowflake design appears at the later stage of glass making, not at the beginning.

“The temperature for glass forming is approximately 1,300° C. Once this process is completed, I put them into a storage oven called “slow cooling oven” whose temperature is kept at approx. 500°C. Then I gradually lower the temperature every 50°C per hour all through the night. While glass is cooling down down, small cracks appear in the middle layer. At the very moment I hear a cracking sound, snowflake-like design suddenly appears on the glass,” Mr. Aoki explained this process with brightly shining eyes.

Interestingly, the more you use Yukihana glassware, the more cracks you will see on a glass. For some snowflake blossoms, it takes up to 3 years to be in full bloom and to form a beautiful design. Users can enjoy “raising” their own glassware with a world unique design.

☆His Passion is Hot Enough to Melt Glass

Mr. Aoki earnestly talks about Yukihana glass. ■Mr. Aoki earnestly talks about Yukihana glass.
He also wants to use more made-in-Fukuoka tools in the future. ■He also wants to use more made-in-Fukuoka tools in the future.

Mr. Aoki opened his workshop, named “Glass Workshop ” in March 2005. The workshop’s name comes from Mr. Aoki’s first name, Kosei. By deciding to spell it the way he did—with reference to the English word, “say”—he wanted to bless the workshop with the notion that his works would be made widely known through the word of mouth of those who saw it. From a young age, Mr. Aoki was attracted to transparent objects, and he joined a glassmaking company after graduating from university. There, he was further attracted by the allure of glass-sculpting, and he developed an ambition to open his own workshop one day. Then he encountered a piece of glassware that gave him the idea to develop Yukihana glassware. He recounts the event happily. “My boss showed me a piece of glasswork from Bulgaria and asked me whether I knew how it had been made. He told me to spend some time to figure it out. This item was precisely my first encounter with the beautiful three-layered glass structure. I can still clearly remember how fascinated I was when I first saw it.” This encounter forever changed the life of the budding craftsman.

Mr. Aoki’s passion for Yukihana glassware can be seen in his selection of raw materials. As he was motivated by a desire to break through the common image that glass is sharp and cold, he makes this specially-created Yukihana glassware that can be used for hot drinks as well. He created a unique and original blend of raw materials using ten different dry chemicals. Although he cannot disclose the details of his formula due to its confidentiality, he uses borosilicate glass, which is mainly used for experimental apparatus in the lab. Chemical-, thermal- and impact-resistance of Yukihana glassware was invented from the passion of this artist, who never gave up to produce elaborate works in perfect condition.

Yukihana glassware attracts us with its warmth, which is unusual in relation to the image of glass-sculpting Yukihana glassware attracts us with its warmth, which is unusual in relation to the image of glass-sculpting ■Yukihana glassware attracts us with its warmth, which is unusual in relation to the image of glass-sculpting

This year marks a milestone for Mr. Aoki, after ten years of working on his Yukihana glassware in Fukuoka, delighting those who see the fine, gentle snowflakes that the glassworks display. When asked about future plans, Mr. Aoki replies, “While pottery is an established culture in Kyushu, I want to disseminate widely the fact that Fukuoka also has a glassblowing culture. So I’d be happy to see more and more people gradually choosing to use Yukihana glassware.” Upon hearing this, I became more convinced of Mr. Aoki’s deep wish to add color and liveliness to our everyday lives through his works and interactions with people.

A snowscape can be admired against a clear blue sky. ■A snowscape can be admired against a clear blue sky.

Whenever someone picks up a piece of Yukihana glassware, there is one thing they always do. They lift it up to the sky and marvel at the light that filters through the glass. That may be the message. More and more people should look through the glass and connect with the heartwarming snowscape that spreads out before them.