Shimadzu Satsuma Kiriko Cut Glass

Take a closer look at Satsuma Kiriko, a cut crystal glass, first created in Kagoshima during the Edo period

By Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Shimazu Satsuma Kiriko Cut GlassKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Satsuma Cut glassKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

About Satsuma Kiriko

Satsuma Kiriko is a kind of cut crystal glass first created in Kagoshima during the Edo period. Satsuma Kiriko is made by layering coloured glass over transparent glass and carefully cutting patterns into the outer layer. Master craftsmen use specialized cutting techniques which make the coloured glass appear to melt into the clear glass below. This gradation, which is known as bokashi, is applied to create designs with a unique Japanese aesthetic sense. The elegance and beauty of Satsuma Kiriko are a testament to the immense effort and craftsmanship put into its production.

 

Satsuma Cut glassKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Satsuma Cut glassKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Portrait of Shimadzu Nariakira (1809-1858) by Kuroda Seiki (1866-1924)Original Source: Museum Shoko Shuseikan

The history of
Satsuma Kiriko

Around the middle of the 19th century the 28th lord of the Shimadzu clan, Nariakira (1809-1858), began a number of industrialization projects with the intention of improving the status of the Satsuma domain. One of these industries was the production of glassware. Under the guidance of cut glass master Shimoto Kamejirō, who was invited to Satsuma by Nariakira’s father, the craftsmen of Satsuma soon developed the techniques to produce Satsuma Kiriko. 

Satsuma Cut glass 《scarlet cut glass bowl, green cut glass bowl》Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Satsuma Kiriko combines the techniques of Chinese Qianlong glassware where coloured glass is laid over clear glass, European cut glass patterns, and the cutting skills of Edo craftsmen. All of these influences fused and developed, becoming the ultimate cut glass that we see today.

Scarlet glass tiered box, Satsuma kiriko cut glassKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Satsuma scarlet glass

Satsuma was the first
domain in Japan to successfully produce scarlet coloured glass by using gold or
copper as raw materials. The result of endless experiments, scarlet glass was
the crowning achievement of the modern factory complex founded by Shimadzu
Nariakira. 

Satsuma scarlet cut glass was highly regarded and was often given as a gift from the Shimadzu family to court nobles and other feudal lords.

Iso District, Kagoshima City, Satsuma kiriko cut glassOriginal Source: Museum Shoko Shuseikan

The final days of
Satsuma Kiriko

Despite its great success, Satsuma Kiriko vanished like a dream less than 30 years after it was first created due to the untimely death of Nariakira and the turmoils of the Meiji Restoration, becoming a “ghost handicraft” of the past.

 

Bowl with wooden box, Satsuma kiriko cut glassKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Reproduction

In 1985, about a century after Satsuma Kiriko production ended, a reproduction project was started at the site adjacent to Sengan-en garden in Kagoshima prefecture where it was first produced. Due to the fact that production had ended over a century ago, there was little information available and the project began from scratch. 

Satsuma Kiriko cut glassKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Satsuma Cut glassKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Bokashi
in Satsuma Kiriko

The coloured glass used in Satsuma Kiriko has a thickness between 1 and 3 mm. This thickness is vital for the making of the glassware. Every subtle cut into the glass produces soft bokashi gradation around the pattern.

Satsuma Cut glassKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

The colours of
Satsuma Kiriko

One of the appealing qualities of Shimadzu Satsuma Kiriko is its vibrant colours. In addition to the traditional six colours of scarlet, indigo, green, yellow, gold red and Shimadzu purple, a new series of “double-colour” cut glass was introduced in 2001. The combining of two different colours marked a new beginning for Shimadzu Satsuma Kiriko. In 2015, the year of the 30th anniversary since Satsuma Kiriko was successfully reproduced, a monochrome series “Ink Black” and milky white “Opal” were also added.

“Double-colour” cut glass, Satsuma Kiriko cut glassKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

By the 30th anniversary since the reproduction project began, craftsmen who left the Shimadzu Satsuma Kiriko workshop have independently set up five Satsuma Kiriko production companies in Kagoshima prefecture.

Satsuma Glass Craft, Shimadzu Limited, Satsuma kiriko cut glassKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Satsuma Glass Craft, Shimadzu Limited. 

The adjacent Gallery and Shop are open all year round.

Credits: Story

Information & images provided by:
Satsuma Cut Glass, Shimadzu ltd.
Shoko Shuseikan, Shimazu ltd.

Supported by:
Shoko Shuseikan, Shimazu ltd.

Directed and text provided by:
Satsuma Cut Glass, Shimadzu ltd.

English Translation by:
Eddy Y. L. Chang

This exhibition is created by:
Ishikawa Mami Kyoto Women's University

Project Directed by:
Maezaki Shinya, Kyoto Women's University
Yamamoto Masako, Ritsumeikan University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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