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The weekend before last, I went with Aisling and two of her friends from Ireland to the Kobe Glass Museum! Originally, we were going to visit the Kobe Museum, but our discount coupons were non-applicable on Saturday because they were holding a special ukiyo-e exhibition. As cool as that sounded, no one wanted to buy the normal tickets, and both of Aisling’s friends were saving money until their return flight to Ireland on Monday.

The Kobe Glass Museum, on the other hand, was close by and not too overpriced, so we walked there instead. It was a pretty tiny place, located on the first floor of a taller building, but what they did have was definitely worth looking at. The main lobby had items for sale: keitai straps, earrings, and necklaces made out of marbled glass, most of it quite expensive. Personally, I was happy with just looking at it, but I can see how someone walking by would feel the urge to pick up something there.

On the other hand, it’s a good thing no one in our group bought anything, because along with the tickets for the actual museum, three of us decided to sign up for the glass making exhibit as well. So for about 1200 yen, we got to make our own glass beads.

First, the museum attendant showed us a bunch of beads in various colors laid out on a few strings. Some of them were opaque, others translucent. Both Aisling and her friend Josephine went for the pink translucent color, while I picked the aquamarine one (although the attendant called it みどり, so who knows). After we chose the color we wanted, we were given a long glass wick.

After that, we were shown a selection of even tinier glass beads. One sort were about as tiny as a needle’s head, while the other sort were larger and in a bunch of different shapes. The second category of beads were two-toned: the bulk of each glass bead was one shade, with the pattern on top often a mixture of colors. The attendant told us to pick out a handful of the tinier beads or four of the larger ones, and then we moved on to the next step, which basically revolved around holding the glass over an open flame at an acute angle.

For about fifteen minutes, I kept rotating the glass until the top inch or so started melting off the rest of the stick. Then, the museum attendant gave us another stick for the melting glass and helped us to continue rotating it until it finally took on a circular shape (not surprisingly, the blue-green glass was red-hot at this point). Finally, we pressed the cooling beads against the tinier ones and then stored our beads away to set for about an hour.



The rest of the museum was a bit smaller in comparison, but I remember staring slack-jawed at how pretty all of it was. I thought it was amazing how much detail and handiwork went into the craftsmanship, particularly with objects that finite. A lot of it also made me think of Murano jewelry, and I’m secretly glad that it was kept behind glass, because I know I would have been trying to touch and take a closer look at everything otherwise. Instead, I just took a lot of pictures.

Basically, A+++ would go again!

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let's go exploring

November 2011

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