Saisei Glass at wagumi for Summer.

This month at wagumi we have a rare restock of glass by Seiten.

You can see the full collection here.

In Yomitan, a settlement famous for craft on the southern Okinawan islands, is the glass studio of Kiyoharu Matsuda.

Matsuda is leading practitioner in ‘saisei’ glass.  Literally meaning ‘reborn’, saisei in a glass context refers to a process to melt and recreate empty drinks bottles into beautiful forms.  Heavy ramune bottles are sometimes a material, as are others used to drink soft drinks in the island’s hot climate.  Reduced to fragments, the glass is blended for texture and colour, and then heated and blown in a technique completed entirely by hand.

The glass is in many ways a symbol of Okinawa’s own post-war recovery.  The site of land conflict during the war, the surfeit of bottles left by occupying forces in the subsequent era created a raw material for glass craftspeople to work with.

The tradition that emerged, is deep and full of beauty, and expresses a resourcefulness in its creation..  Kiyoharu Matsuda himself has worked in glass since the day that he left school.   A journeyman to an extent, with many roles and experiences in the world of Okinawa glass, his base is now the Seiten studio in Yomitan.

Finishing a hand blown piece of saisei glass

He blows and shapes the individual items of glass in quick motion, before severing them from the pole with which he works.  A mentor, he has small team of craftspeople, and a regular stream of interested visitors.

His studio’s name: Seiten, is a play on words on his name.  The first character of Kiyoharu refers to a purity.  An alternative reading is Sei, and when combined with Ten (‘weather’), it conveys the fresh and pure light of the sun in the Okinawa sky.

This light is refracted in the glass of Kiyoharu Matsuda, and the sunshine seems somehow to be encapsulated within it.

The individual pieces can be a vessel for the Okinawan spirit: awamori, or more or less anything on a summer’s day.  It remains pleasurable to use Seiten glass in any climate however, and even under the UK’s slate grey skies, as it can enhance the sense of sunshine inside.  Different lights, introduce new contexts and patterns as they meet the glassware.

The saisei glass tradition practiced at Seiten sits within the wider Ryukyu glass culture.  The Ryukyu Kingdom was the forerunner of modern day Okinawa, and sitting at a confluence in Asia, its aesthetic legacy is full of colour.  This finds one expression in the azures, reds and other bold colours shaped into glassware. 

Shuki Pitcher by Seiten 

The Okinawan culture today has influences from the Japanese mainland, and the large American military bases the islands are home to.  Throughout it retains a creativity in craft founded in its landscape, and distinct history.  The practice of saisei glass in the post-war era, encapsulates these elements, and has a symbolism.  Items with a history, they bring fun and refinement to the present.

 

(Ramune bottles are among the raw materials of saisei glass)

(This material is heated and recreated)

Kiyoharu Matsuda

(And made into beautiful forms)

 


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