Tomoki Minakuchi – a young artist in Kurashiki using his experience from his training and apprenticeship to make unique creations out of glass. His studio is located in the same area where glass making first began in the prefecture in 1964. Now, ‘Kurashiki Glass’ is becoming more recognized and Minakuchi is an artist at the forefront of a wave of young glassmakers trying to make their mark.
Tomoki Minakuchi first came to Okayama in 2000 to begin his studies at Kurashiki Arts and Science University in the glass arts course. When you talk to him you can tell instantly that he is passionate about his art and his on-going journey to learn and experiment with glass blowing. Always at the back of his mind, is his goal to create a visual voice – something that makes people recognize his glassworks immediately.
“I am still thinking what my motif will be. I really like the idea of using a whale or something from the Seto Inland Sea as my signature, my calling card,” explains Minakuchi as he showed us his latest creations.
Minakuchi is originally from Ehime Prefecture on Shikoku, so his connection to the Seto Inland Sea runs deep. This is important to his work and you can see this link in a number of his pieces that take the form of whales, shells and other underwater creatures.
After graduation in 2004 Tomoki began his apprenticeship under artist Kiyokazu Akazawa but that was abruptly ended with the death of Akazawa in 2005. He then took over running Akazawa’s Studio until 2007. In 2007 he decided to open his own studio ‘ Glassta TOMO’ in Kurashiki.
His recent series of glass samurai helmets that he developed are intriguing. He uses an original technique he developed and each piece takes two hours of precise blowing to form its exact shape and color. There are other smaller pieces fashioned onto the helmet to create an impressive finish.
Most of the works on display in the glassworks are made my Minakuchi and are for sale. However, some pieces are not. They belong to the participants of workshops and lessons Minakuchi regularly holds in his glassworks.
We watched as a neighbor came in for his weekly lesson. During the course of the class he created an ornate glass goblet. Minakuchi was a great teacher. Both precise and generous with his feedback, he instructed the student to stand at a certain angle, to twist his hand a certain way, how to breathe, and the speed he needs to turn the rod when blowing the glass.
This hands-on workshop continued for an hour until a beautiful orange goblet was finally completed. To the casual observer, the whole process could look straightforward and simple. But that would only be down to Minakuchi’s support and style of teaching. The local neighbor had been taking lessons for a year and seemed very happy to continue.
Glassta TOMO offers a number of lessons or group workshops for people interested in glass blowing. These are conducted in Japanese but some Okayama travel companies do offer an English interpreter to help you understand the process. So if you have a few hours spare before or after wandering around Kurashiki’s famous Bikan district, and want to try your hand at glass blowing, you won’t find a better teacher than Tomoki Minakuchi.
2-13-33 Hiroe, Kurashiki, Okayama 712-8043
Get off at Mizushima IC on Seto Chuo Express Way.
After ETC Gate, take the left lane and go towards Mizushima (水島). It will direct you to Route 62 going west. Proceed on Route 62 for about 3.5 Km and you will see ぐらすたTOMO on your right. You will see a HALLOWS Supermarket on the left side.
Use Shimoden Bus “Shionasu Line, Kojima-Bound.” Get off at Shin Takahashi. It is about a 30-minute ride.
Walk back in the same direction as the bus came towards the traffic lights on the big street. Turn left and walk straight on the big street for about 6 minutes (you will cross one traffic light). The studio is on the left by the little canal. You will see HALLOWS supermarket across the street on the right side.
Open Hours／Holidays： Open every day except some national holidays.
Written by Judith Mikami
Photography by Takuma Kimura
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