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Kokonotuido Home-Fired Suenosato Hand-blown Glassworks Make your own original glass creation

A friendly glassworks

“Kokonotuido Home-Fired Suenosato Hand-blown Glassworks”, where you can try your hand at glassblowing, is a 10-minute bus ride from JR Ofuna Station. After walking through a peaceful rural area for around five minutes, Haruka Sato and Kaname Onoguchi came to meet me from the glassworks (photo 1).
This glassworks came into being when the owner, Chiemaro Shibuya, having opened a restaurant serving handmade soba buckwheat noodles and other Japanese cuisine on this site around forty years ago, decided that he wanted to serve the restaurant’s food on homemade tableware. Nowadays, it usually makes glassware and containers for restaurants in Kanagawa Prefecture and Tokyo to use and sell. Furthermore, it also holds “hands-on glassblowing” sessions, with the aim of letting a variety of people experience the fun of making things by hand.
Here, you can make glass tumblers, small dishes, sake cups, milk jugs, mugs with handles, wind-chimes, and more. Participants from second grade of elementary school and older are welcomed, so the glassworks is packed with family groups during the school summer vacation. Inside, there is a melting furnace for melting the glass, “glory holes” for reheating the glass, annealing furnaces for cooling the glass, and workbenches (photo 2). It takes around 20 minutes to make one piece of glassware, and two people can take part simultaneously.

Blow while the glass is hot

So, what am I going to make? I took a look at the sample pieces, and my imagination fired up. “Okay, I’m going to make a rocks glass!!” (A rocks glass is a short, thick glass for whiskey and other drinks).
I told Ms. Haruka Sato, who will teach me the glassblowing method, what kind of glass I wanted to make, and then it was finally time to start glassmaking. First, I will choose from the colored glass (photo 3). You can choose a single color or multiple colors.
Initially, we wrap hot glass from the melting furnace around the tip of the blowpipe. Wrapping the glass is quite difficult, so Ms. Sato did it for me.
Now the real thing begins!!
After taking the blowpipe, I blow into it little by little, and the glass grows bigger. There’s no need to overexert yourself (photo 4). While doing this, you are supposed to keep turning the blowpipe, but I accidentally forgot. It’s difficult to do two things at the same time… But it’s fine, because Ms. Sato is there to support me.
When the glass cools down, we put it into the “glory hole”, which is a furnace for reheating the glass, and raise the temperature. Rather than “strike while the iron is hot”, the ironclad rule here is “blow while the glass is hot!!”.
After repeating the process of blowing and reheating several times, I sat on the bench and, using huge tweezers which we called “chopsticks”, marked a line for cutting the glass off the blowpipe (photo 5). The piping-hot glass is close at hand so I felt a little nervous, but if you do it carefully, it’s fine.
After this, we continue to reheat and blow the glass, and flatten the base with a “marver”. If you keep it parallel to the bench, you will succeed.
Next, we use a tool called a pontil, which is a rod with hot glass attached in order to fuse it to the piece being worked on. We attach the pontil to the bottom of the glass, and by tapping the blowpipe on the opposite side - snap! - the glass detaches. During this process, too, you need to keep turning the rod at the same speed.
The trick with the lip of the glass is to widen it little by little, very gently.
After breaking off the pontil, the piece is complete!! Next, it is cooled in the annealing furnace.
All that’s left now is to wait for it to be sent to my home.

Enjoy a full day of art

After cooling for half a day in the annealing furnace, the finished pieces are delivered from the next day onwards, so your own creation will arrive by your side within around a week.
Near the glassworks is the restaurant “Kokonotuido Honten”, where you can enjoy handmade soba buckwheat noodles, shabu-shabu hotpot, open hearth cooking, and other dishes. In addition to enjoying meals served on the glassware made at this glassworks, pieces are on sale, too. Additionally, I received one more piece of information too good to pass up: nearby, there is the “Kokonotuido Yama-no-ue Gallery”, which used to be an old mercantile house that was relocated and rebuilt. Here, you can appreciate artworks including paintings, sculptures and handicrafts. You can experience a full day of creating, touching, looking at and immersing yourself in art.

by Kanagawa P.G.T.D.