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Takumi Kobo creates Okinawa’s finest Ryukyu glass

By: David Knickerbocker

Date Posted: 2002-03-14

Up in Yomitan, there’s a small, unassuming art workshop that has been producing some of the finest Ryukyu glass found anywhere on Okinawa. Since Takumi Kobo (Takumi Studio) first opened three years ago, it has always tried to keep its artistic quality high. Ryukyu glass artist Hideyoshi Matsude, a local who has been practicing this art for more than 21 years, masters the shop. Last year, he participated in an exhibition of Okinawa art by submitting four of his lamps. He says that he loves creating Ryukyu glass items because they come out different every time depending on the mood or state that you are in. “It’s your inside feelings that make this interesting,” he says. “There is no limit to the imagination. You can make anything.” Matsude was born in Onna Village and started doing Ryukyu glass as a part-time job when he was a university student.

Next to the Takumi Kobo kiln is a gift shop that sells all kinds of glass items including, glasses, plates, chopstick holders, awamori flasks, pitchers and innovative lamps. For a small price, the studio will also allow visitors to learn how to make their own glass items. After paying ¥2,000, a worker will walk you through the process step by step until you have created your own unique object. I decided to try and make an awamori glass, so I pointed out the design I liked in the gift shop and told them what colors I wanted. Then the process began.

Matsude went behind the scenes and got my item started by selecting the right colors, then came back with a red-hot glob of glass. I was seated and told to blow into a long pipe with the molten material at the end. After blowing the glass into the right size, I was walked over to a stair that I was instructed to stand on. Below me, there was a wooden form that the red-hot glass was inserted into, and I was told to blow into the pipe again. This stretched the glowing glass into the desired form, and when we pulled it out it was starting to look like the finished version in the gift shop. Next, I was brought back to my original chair, and we separated the pipe from the glass, meanwhile attaching another pole to the substance, and then I used a tool to shape the opening of my glass. Finally, after all the steps were completed, my cup was brought to a kiln where it would sit for one day in 500 degree Fahrenheit heat, and I was told I could pick it up the next day.

There are many types of Ryukyu glass items you can fashion, and the cost of instruction depends on the colors and extras put into the glass. For instance, for ¥2,000, you can make a basic cup with one color. For an extra ¥300, you can add other additional colors and textures. For a little more, you can even embed tiny beads of colored glass. The employees will help you make a custom-made glass fitting your taste.

Matsude says that Ryukyu glass cannot be made in a factory. “I got into the Ryukyu glass scene because there was no limit to what you can make,” he says. The glass is very beautiful and has become a powerful art form in Okinawa. Be sure to check out Takumi Kobo and find out first-hand what Ryukyu glass is all about. You’ll have a blast making your own special item; I know I did. Takumi Kobo is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and is closed on Mondays.

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