Eiko Kawaguchi of Studio A & Co lives and works in Waikuku, North Canterbury, her home for the last seventeen years. From her studio in a heritage mill complex she creates stunning, ethereal jewellery and tablewares in heat resistant borosilicate glass. Her love of glass as a material, and the lampworking method, shines through in her unique, delicate creations.
How did you get into your craft?
I fell in love with the very simple, yet most beautifully hand blown perfume bottle at a craft market during my holiday in Sydney. I was determined to find a place where I could learn glass blowing on my return and I did. That piece changed my life.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Not really. But I took a part-time glass blowing classes at the well-known school, the Tokyo Glass Art Institute for 1 1/2 years. Then, off to Australia for getting glass blowing lessons and work experience at glass studios for nearly a year. Since then, I have taken several two-day workshops over the years in different places as well. Now, I have my own glass studio and I am still learning every day.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
My favourite material is glass, of course! It is a very beautiful and clean material to work with. My favourite tools, more like things I want to be friends with, are controlling heat and concentricity. When I can have both during a glass making process, everything falls in the right place.
Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces
I melt a coloured glass bar over a glass tube (similar glass to a test tube) using a hot flame. Then I blow it freely into a shape while the glass is at melting temperature. The hottest flame reaches over 1100 degree Celsius. Once a piece is completed, it goes in a kiln at temperature of 540 degree Celsius for an annealing process. The kiln is shut down at the end of the day to cool it down slowly overnight.
What inspires you?
Things that make me happy to look at. They can be beautiful sceneries, amazing performances, cutest animals, yummy food, lovely things I buy etc. Extra little happinesses give me energy to do better in the next day of my creative life.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I like my work to be worn and used a lot. I make jewellery to be worn anytime – for daily use and for a special occasion. I make tableware to be practical. I make things for their purpose. I prefer my work to be used, not sitting in a china cabinet. For example, my cups can be used for both cold and hot – clear so you can see through inside what you are drinking. My vases are designed to have a small rim so a short stem flower can sit nice and upright. I make a very small mustard bowl with a matching spoon as well. The idea of that is not to waste too much mustard when you put it out at a dinner table. Overall, I am aiming for my work to be loved more and more every time it’s used.
“It definitely gives me joy to use a handmade thing rather than a mass-produced item.”
Describe your creative process:
I think of what I wish to have first. Then I think of design and how I can achieve making it in glass. For instance, I thought of my wall vase when my puppy stomped on a calendula flower in my garden. There was a flower lying around on the pavement so I wanted to make a vase that fit a single short stem flower. (The vases I had were very large so only fit long stem flowers like ones you buy from a flower store.) At the same time, I didn’t want to shift a vase every time the dinner plates came out as my dining table was not that big. So the vase ended up on a wall.
Describe your workspace:
A mess – but it is my cosy spot! I have a lot of gear, tools, material and off-cut glass. I am trying to clear my working bench, but too it has far much stuff and things I use often. So lot of things are left out on the bench. Still I am very fortunate to have my own workspace. I shifted to this studio eight years ago. The idea is to be away from home so that there is no distraction during working hours, and it makes me go to work every day in the morning. It is also a bonus to have a wee display area so I can be surrounded pieces I have made so far.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
Recently, I helped a man to find a gift for his sister. I asked what she would like and I brought out a small glass necklace from my jewellery case at the back. His face brightened up! He left a comment on my Facebook page that said “This store is bona fide proof that glorious things come in small packages. Packed in this mini wonder-store, you’ll find the most exquisitely unique glass treasures.” It was priceless to see the expression on his face.
What are you currently listening to?
The soundtrack of “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Recommend an album:
“Echoes of Eternity” by Fujiko Hemming.
What are you reading now?
“Issai Nariyuki” by Kiki Kirin. Words left by a Japanese actress who passed away last year.
A favourite quote:
“No two days are alike, nor even two hours, neither were there ever two leaves of a tree alike since the creation of all the world; and the genuine productions of art, like those of nature, are all distinct from each other.” – John Constable.
Tell us about your pets:
My husband and I have two senior dogs; a team of mother and son – one is a sixteen year old Golden Retriever and the other is a thirteen year old Golden Retriever x Sharpei. The sixteen year old is not walking much anymore, but she enjoys her food and snacks. She needs a full time care at the moment. Luckily, I can take her to my studio most days. Both dogs are getting holistic massage therapy every week to keep them in a good order. The treatments have been so amazing! Our dogs are big part of our family.
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
I think continuation is a key ingredient to being successful in a crafty business. You need to keep doing whatever you do for a very long time. People will notice when you are producing something unique and are faithful to yourself and to people – you will build your own clientele over the years. You just need to keep going.
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
It definitely gives me joy to use a handmade thing rather than a mass-produced item. I especially like to wear locally made clothes because they lift me up for a day. When I wear something from a franchised clothing brand, I often bump into someone who wears the same one. That make me feel I am the one of the boring shoppers! Handmade things are thought through in their design and manufacture by a solo person or small number of people. It means limited items are produced so there is more value in those. It is also important to support small businesses to keep them going.
“I like my work to be worn and used a lot… I make things for their purpose. I prefer my work to be used, not sitting in a china cabinet.”
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I bought a small pink marble patterned ceramic cup at a craft market in Japan. The shape is like a shallow cylinder and it is crafted very cleanly, simply and sharply. I could see the maker was a very experienced potter. Also I love collecting cups in pink!
What’s in store for the rest of 2019?
I have thought of what I would like for this Christmas. I am designing new products. A vase that I can arrange flowers like ikebana (traditional Japanese flower arrangement) and also colourful fun Christmas jewellery. Another thing is I recently purchased a new tool, a blowing tube which enables me to blow larger things, but I will need a bit of practice to utilise it! The last of all I am planning to have a market stall in November. It will keep me busy to make some stock and I look forward to meeting new customers and getting lots of feedback.
Eiko has very generously offered a beautiful prize for one lucky Felt reader of a pair of her lovely carrot red flower earrings, which she is modelling in the picture above. These cheerful, dainty daisies are light (and delightful!) to wear, and are supplied on quality Sterling silver hoops. Just leave us a comment below telling us what you like about Eiko’s story and her lovely creations, and you’ll be in to win.
The draw closes at 5pm on Monday 16 September and is open to New Zealand residents only.
And the prize draw’s not all! Eiko is also kindly giving her Felt customers 20% off any of the gorgeous products in her Felt shop for the duration of her feature fortnight. Just purchase before 5pm Monday 16 September, and enter the code STUDIOAANDCO20 in the voucher code field at step 4 of checkout. Thanks so much Eiko!