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11/17/2015

Edo - Furin: The Art of Traditional Glass Making

The art of glass making was first introduced in Tokyo during the Edo period of Japan (1603-1867) by a master of the art from Nagasaki. From that point on, it continued as in invaluable tradition of craft making to the Japanese.

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This delightful and traditional piece produced from the glass making technique is called “Edo-Furin” - A beautiful glass wind-chime that peddlers used to attach to poles to announce their sales, or that residents would tie above the thresholds of their houses with a talisman or charm dangling from the bottom.

 

The sounds produced from the wind and bells are even more soothing to the ear than elegant chimes caught in the autumn breeze.

CIEE students had the wondrous opportunity to learn under a present master of the art, Mr. Yoshiharu Shinohara Jr., and create our own wind chimes from scratch.

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The process itself takes many, many years to master. The glass blowing portion is actually done in stages, the first stage usually taking about three years to have mastered. In the first part, a small piece of melted glass is attached to a long rod from within the closed fire pit. First, you blow very carefully through the rod to try and get a sphere like bubble. I say bubble because as this point, the hot glass is still very flexible that it can still be easily molded. In addition to blowing, you have to constantly turn the rod so that the glass forms a perfect sphere and does not droop downward. We had to do this twice before attempting to blow the biggest portion of the glass, the piece that would actually be the wind chime. After each of us completed this stage, usually proving to be a difficult feat, the rest of us would clap our hands and proclaim “San-Nen Clear!” meaning third year cleared, in reference to how long this part would actually take.

After those initial steps were completed, then we would have to blow with all our might and strength to create the third and last piece. This was done in order to create a perfect sphere, and proved to be the hardest because of how strong we had to make the air pressure in comparison to the other two.

Once those steps were done, Mr.  Shinohara made an opening at the very top of our largest blown glass, and would then set it down to cool off entirely. After that, his son came in and broke off the additional pieces that were created in the first two steps – I realized by now that those pieces were only created just so we could have the opening beneath the third, largest sphere, for the bell to dangle freely from. Our “three years worth” of work would not even be part of the final project.

The final stage in all of this was painting and decorating. This was my favorite part to be honest because there’s something so calming and fun when it comes to painting. Before starting, we learned about what most people usually paint on wind chimes and how to paint them. For example, painting Sakura, Cherry Blossoms, were supposed to be calming and serene.

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Almost all of us looked to the internet for further inspiration, and so some of us wound up painting variations of cherry blossom designs and inspirational kanji. Others thought more along the lines of their favorite iconic characters. I started out with roses, but then wound up creating a scene of fallen flower petals from a tree. The hardest part about this though was the fact that we had to paint from the inside, so we had to paint the details of the design first whereas if you paint on paper, or on canvas, details are saved for the very last. As an artist, it was an interesting way to think about painting. However, there is a trick to it. If you paint your design on the outside, then you can mirror it from the inside and then wipe the outside clean! This was probably the best option for those of us who decided to write kanji on our wind chimes. At the very end, other apprentices helped to tie the bell and talisman onto the wind chime. And like so, it was completed.

Just think that we created our own wind chimes from scratch just as if we were in the Edo period. It was an experience that was entirely enriched with culture and tradition that you won’t find anywhere else.

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