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Edo Kiriko (“faceted glass from Edo”) is the traditional Japanese craft of cutting patterns on glassworks. This superb cut-glass art reportedly dates from the Tenpo period (1830-1844) of the Edo period, and by the Meiji period, elaborate cutting techniques known today were already established.No precise draft is used for cutting the glass, and all cut work is done by hand. During the first phase of production, only grid guidelines are drawn (waridashi) on glassware such as a drinking glass, plate, or vase. Edo Kiriko artisans determine design patterns by incising the glass surface with a diamond wheel, using horizontal and vertical lines and nodal points as reference. Regardless of final design complexity, Edo Kiriko is cut freehand with minimal guidance.The appeal of Edo Kiriko is found in its detailed handiwork and dazzling sparkle. There are more than 10 kinds of typical cutting patterns, which are combined to create more complicated designs. These patterns emerge not only on the side of a drinking glass or a dish but also on the bottom.
Transparent colorless glass was first used in the early artistic development of Edo Kiriko. But gradually, this was replaced by irogise (“color-dressed”) glass featuring a colored layer over a transparent layer. During and after the Taisho period (1912-1926), beautiful contrasting cut-glass works with transparent patterns under a colored layer became the mainstream style. Third-generation Shūseki artist name holder and Edo Kiriko craftsman Toru Horiguchi says, “Artisans of Edo Kiriko from the Edo period up to the present inherited their predecessors’ glass-cutting techniques while further developing design patterns with changing times. For example, minutely detailed red and blue Edo Kiriko cut glass was popular in the later Showa period (1926-1989), but simpler design patterns were more popular during Taisho and early Showa periods (1910s-1930s), and these may look even more modern today. Lately, even black Edo Kiriko works have appeared. Despite dramatically changing times, the essence of Edo Kiriko remains unaltered — cutting the glass, surprising, and enchanting the beholder of the glass. I want to produce Edo Kiriko cut-glass works that match our lifestyles while preserving this essence.”

“Shūseki” is the artist name that was chosen and passed down from master to apprentice. As a cut-glass artisan, Mr. Horiguchi has succeeded to this name held by his grandfather, the first-generation Shūseki, and the second-generation Shūseki, who was his master teacher. He was close to his grandfather in childhood and decided in his junior high school period to become an Edo Kiriko artisan.
“I liked making things with my hands and vaguely dreamed of joining the world of traditional crafts in some way. By the time I was a junior-high-school student, I became more aware of Edo Kiriko artistry as a lifetime career and hoped I could continue in place of my late grandfather. So, I became an apprentice of the second Shūseki after graduating from university. This is my 19th year since becoming a cut-glass artisan. I do my best to produce cut-glass artworks befitting my title, which was first bestowed on my grandfather and further elevated in value by the second Shūseki,” Mr. Horiguchi says.
Today, Edo Kiriko is designated a national traditional craft, and the name is a registered trademark of an artisans’ union called the Edo Kiriko Cooperative Association. Therefore, works called Edo Kiriko should meet defined rules — for example, the center of production should be mainly in the area of Koto ward, Tokyo. However, these rules are simple and flexible, too. This reflects awareness that modern artisans should feel free to pass on the Edo Kiriko tradition to the next generation while preserving its techniques. Freedom is the only key to the shape of art to come.
Mr. Horiguchi says, “Edo Kiriko is glass art. More or less, it is easily influenced by surrounding factors — for example, foods and beverages served in the glassware, the color of the table, and the backdrop of where it is placed, such as the brightness of the ambience, and other elements. Depending on these factors, the appearance of the glasswork changes. This is one of the attractive aspects unique to Edo Kiriko. Therefore, our works can be complete only when a beverage is poured into the glass or the glass is in the hands of the user. I began to be interested in making such glassworks. Now I’m using the keyword ‘emptiness’ to challenge the whole concept of Edo Kiriko works.”

[photo]Toru Horiguchi

Toru Horiguchi

Born in Tokyo in 1976. To succeed to the artist name of first-generation Edo Kiriko artisan Shūseki, in 1999 he became an apprentice of the second-generation Shūseki, Tomio Suda. In 2008, he assumed the name of third-generation Shūseki, became independent, and founded Horiguchi Kiriko. In 2014, Mr. Horiguchi was accredited as Japan’s Traditional Craftsman for Edo Kiriko, making him the youngest to achieve this honor. His cut-glass art has gained a high reputation both inside and outside Japan, and he continues to seek challenges beyond tableware in the new genres of fashion and interior design, which are uncommon for Edo Kiriko.