In winter, we are fascinated by the heavy icicles that are about to fall from the edge of the roof, because they show the beautiful forms made by nature as well as their structural dynamics. The moisture in the air turns into snow and falls onto the roof; then it is melted by sun and the dripping water creates the beautiful upside-down conical shaped icicles. These phenomena remind me Kojiro’s glass sculpture which he describes as Kiln-foamed Casting.

The mixture of glass powder and the expansion agent is put into a mold and heated in a kiln. When the piece expands from the heat, it cools rapidly, then, is heated again. The form is changed by the internal and external environments accordingly, but it ends up as a form where the material and the structure’s properties are in a natural state. Kojiro wants to express the beauty and dynamism of those phenomena in his art works, like the journey of the icicles that started from the moisture in the air.

This work based on his concept has been acclaimed internationally, and, out of 3900 applicants, he was awarded the special mention by Loewe Craft Prize in Madrid in 2017. He currently lives in Hida-Takayama in Gifu prefecture with his wife, Runa Kosogawa, who is also a glass artist.

—FUKAI Keiko

Once I left an orange on the desk. I watched it turning brown and shrinking without rotting. After about 6 months, the orange eventually became a solid object like an inelastic table tennis ball. Since I witnessed this calm process of shrinking, I no longer see decaying trees, flowers, or insects that are completely dried out and lying dead on the street that might have gone through hardships before their deaths, with only a sense of loss. Also I experienced my father receiving care repeatedly, yet his life had to be cut short. Both of those experiences suggested to me how our lives should be in today’s world.

From the beginning to its peak time, a life is filled with lustrous and vibrant moments; then it becomes mature and shows the transience of life towards the moment of its end. I am just one of many who is fascinated by the long journey of a life. It was the shrunken orange that made me realize the beauty of the hidden dynamics in the tranquil and gentle latter part of a lifetime.

I assume this is what happens when all living things shrink steadily over the years. It seems to me all living things also release gases and fluids naturally stored in our bodies, or in some cases, souls are released. Then, a life finally becomes only what remains, though for the moment the body stays in this world. To me, this transient form is the fundamental and necessary structure of a life.

I mix glass powder with lime powder or copper oxide powder in a mold, and fire in an electric kiln. The melting glass confines the gas that the additive releases inside. This creates porous lumps of glass in the mold, just like when we bake bread in a mold. I fire these airy glass lumps again right away, or sometimes, after they are cooled down. The lump collapses under its own weight. Then, as it releases the gas, the body shrinks. In the final stage of this journey, the glass loses its own shape because of gravity, and the spaces between the porous parts merge, and it becomes a piece of glass with density.

Then, I came to the conclusion that this transformation of the object is a life cycle. My goal is to create forms by the natural property of glass that shows the remarkable moment in the process of shrinking. When I am able to create this perfectly, with all elements in this process, I believe the piece should possess true and innate natural beauty.

In the natural world, objects are always changing. As transformed materials are exposed to the air, they keep changing in appearance or texture at their own pace. However, when compared to other materials, it is said that glass is artificial and does not age well. So, as I work with the material, glass, more and more I feel that it is very difficult to express the transformation of the life cycle as with other materials. However, I am a man of contradiction, and am challenging to express the shrunken orange that gave me the inspiration of the fundamental structure of life as well as the material.