Home Style Beauty of a Tiny World: Japanese Artist Paints on Glass Beads

Beauty of a Tiny World: Japanese Artist Paints on Glass Beads

Remember the colorful beads we often played with when we were kids? Masaaki Nakano is a Japanese artist who makes glass beads with dreamy colors and delicate patterns.

Such glass beads with inner patterns first appeared in Japan in the Nara period, when they were mostly used to fix rope knots and made everyday decorations personal and artistic.

Making such a small glass bead requires both concentration and well-honed skills. The artist needs to pay constant attention to changes in different glass pieces during firing and with an accurate grasp of their features, paint an intricate pattern on the inside and/or outside of the glass sphere.

Wind God and Thunder God

Having injected his creativity into the traditional glass beads, Nakano makes what have always been spheres into “models” with a body, which are more distinctive and popular among modern people. The method is accordingly more complicated.

Glass blanks

Nakano uses many brands and types of colored glass, each with its own personality. For example, Italian glass blanks are harder and have to be fired longer, while their Japanese counterparts, Nakano’s favorite, are softer and easier to shape.

In order to minimize the heat transfer between glass pieces, Nakano often makes each part according to the manuscript before joining them together. He has also developed a method by which he incorporates the pattern in a glass cylinder. Thus, each slice of the cylinder will show the same pattern.

Nakano’s family business was a kimono store, at which he, as a child, helped his father and grandfather. Barring accidents, he would have become a kimono shop owner.

René Lalique’s work

However, the works of René Lalique, a French jeweler and glass designer, in his high school textbooks, attracted him to jewelry making. As such, he attended a jewelry design school and worked for years after graduation as an assistant to his professor, on whose advice he furthered his studies in Spain.

During this period, he discovered glass beads. A glass bead can work on its own: Glass is all it needs to be a beautiful ornament. It was this point of glass beads that charmed him and prompted him to focus on the production of glass beads.

After a few years of groping, he set up a classroom to teach his curious friends. Nakano hones his skills as time elapses. He has not only built his own studio Kaizuya, named after the family store, but also added many traditional kimono patterns to his creations, thus carrying forward the family business.

For him, it’s a blessing to encounter glass beads. The beauty of this tiny world shouldn’t be ignored.

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