Interview 01: Seiji Haga - Expressing the Beauty of Nature Through Lifelong Glass Making

“Aomori is abundant in nature. I’d love to share the beauty of it through the Tsugaru Handblown glasses.” 

Seiji Haga, Aomori Prefecture Traditional Craftsman 
Since he joined the company in 1980, he has exhibited his crafts at numerous glass exhibitions and won multiple awards at the Tohoku Glass Art Exhibition, Aomori Craft Competition, and the Japanese Folk Art Open Call Exhibition. 

In 2007, he was certified as a master craftsman in Aomori prefecture. Today, he devotes his time training the young apprenticeship while further refining his skills.

What do you envision when you think of “Spring Glass”? The four seasons in Japan are filled with a myriad of natural hues. For example, a cherry tree has multiple expressions depending on whether it’s standing on the water or in the mountains. The way you experience the colors of the tree could differ depending on whether you see it in the morning mist, evening dusk, or in the crisp winter nights. Haga, the master glassblower, is inspired by the beauty of nature above anything else. The intimate view of the scenery gets blown into the glass by Haga, transforming his vision into Tsugaru Handblown. 

Haga believes Tsuguru Handblown still has so many more potential colorways that he hasn’t even tried!

Haga became a traditional master craftsman because Aomori prefecture officially recognized the technique of “Chubuki” which translates to “air blowing.” This is a technique of free-blowing glass while turning a paddle without using a mold or machine, and it requires many years of experience and training in order to master.  With delicate refinement in the blowing and turning speed, you can create unordinary shapes. Depending on the shape and design of the vessel, collaboration with other craftsmen are necessary.  Witnessing the glass quickly transforming into a form, is true magic accumulated over years of commitment.

The finished glasses and vessels have subtle differences in pattern and shape, but the size is almost exactly the same.  Although  every glass is handmade, the quality is surprisingly consistent. The secret is to "guide the glass in the direction it wants to flow." Melted glass, which can reach 1200 degrees Celsius, is hotter and heavier than it looks, but Haga allows the glass "as it wants to dance" while manipulating the difficult rod as if it were an extension of his body. All names of Tsugaru Handblown have derived from the four seasons, and the moment they leave the rod, the mere glass becomes a matter with the spirits of nature.

Air-Blowing Technique

A traditional hand blowing technique that has been passed down since the 1st century BC. This technique involves melting the glass to about 1200 degrees (molding temperature) and winding the glass around the tip of the paddle, and blowing from the other end to inflate and reshape it. While reheating in the molding furnace, layers of colored glass and frit are added as a finishing touch. This technique is used for designing free-form glasswares.