Edo Cut Glass
It is said that the origins of Edo Kiriko date back to 1834 when a Kagaya Kyubei, who was working in a small glass works in Edo (Tokyo), copied a piece of English cut glass. It also seems that Commodore Matthew Perry, who arrived in Japan toward the end of the Edo Period (1600-1868), was very surprised when he was presented with a splendid piece of Kagaya's cut glass.
Subsequently various Western methods of cutting and sculpting glass were introduced during the late 19th and early 20th centuries under instruction from experts from England. In fact, many of the fine glass cutting techniques introduced at that time are still in use to this day.
Although during the Edo period clear glass was cut, these days it is colored or cased cut glass which appeals more to the buying public and makes up the bulk of production. Inevitably the cut lines and patterns are more distinct and the contrast between the clear and colored surfaces is one of the distinctive features of this glassware, which includes such things as general items of tableware, items for drinking sakE, flower vases, decorative glass and stationary items.
Kiriko is the traditional art of cutting a multitude of decorative patterns into the surface of glass using tools such as metal discs and grindstones, and is the method used to produce Edo Kiriko. Items of daily life in Edo, such as chrysanthemum and cannabis leaves, basket patterns and geometric shapes form the basis of traditionally used patterns. The unique style of Edo Kiriko is born from the incredible skill used to combine the variety of patterns into a finished piece. Originally cutting shapes into clear glass, known as the Suki or “see through” style was popular.
Recently, however, applying a film of colored glass on top of clear glass and then cutting, known as the Irokise or “color covering” style has become the mainstream. The key characteristic of Irokise pieces is the vivid contrast between colored and clear areas of glass created by the decorative cuttings.
How to make
The process of making Edo Kiriko is divided into four main steps. In the first step, “Waridashi, Sumitsuke”, the surface of the glass is marked with lines and dots in a process known as so the artisan can see where to carve. In the second step, “Arazuri”, a metal disk is used to make the initial cuts of the design.
For the third step, “Ishikake”, a whetstone is used to complete the design. After all cutting is complete, for the final step, “Migaki”, the glass is polished to a brilliant finish. Depending on the design, sometimes the Arazuri step needs to be divided into two or three stages. Additionally, in addition to completing the cuts started in Arazuri, the whetstone is used in the Ishikake step to etch delicate patterns without any initial cuts. In Edo Kiriko, all of these steps need to be completed without the aid of any rough sketch on the surface of the glass. Only the well-trained eye and the experienced hand of a master artisan of many years can bring these traditional and beautiful patterns to fruition.