Ryo Yamashita is one of the rare glasses artists who creates from the design stage to the cast stage, using wrought metal techniques. After learning the techniques at a historic glasses studio, he established his own atelier in 1998. Yamashita, who is dedicated to his work as a creator of glasses, says:
"Glasses have the very important role of sending out an impression of one's face. However, we only have the choice of buying ready-made products. With a more freed up imagination, I would like to explore the relationship between glasses and people."
Yamashita has established an haute couture system at his atelier. It takes three or four months from the initial measurement to completion. He produces most of the parts by hand and responds to the requests of people who want their own original glasses.
Yamashita believes that the relationship between producers of glasses and wearers was lost when glasses became an industrial product. He learnt about this relationship from rare literary documents about glass craftsmen of the Edo period in Japan. He says:
"Glasses craftsmen of the Edo period had sophisticated glasses imported from the West to fit their customers. They had high level of technique but also a very stable relationship with glasses wearers. That is a very big difference from today. I would like to look for the value of glasses that has been lost in our industrial age."
In addition to this attitude as a creator, Yamashita defines glasses as "the closest personal art" and started to explore the possibilities of glasses as a form of artistic expression. He strives to create new glasses by designing in a playful state of mind, using materials that are never used in mass-produced glasses, such as bamboo or iron. Since 2005, he started to hold exhibitions twice a year at art galleries and made space installations of glasses that incorporated floral arrangements, objects and bamboo. As his works and activities received higher recognition, in 2007, he held a glasses exhibition in Rome, Italy, where glasses were invented.
For this exhibition "Kyouka", Ryo Yamashita has created new glasses. The title "Kyoka" means "glass that reflects (the beauty of) flowers" - it was a word created by Chinese hieroglyphist Wang Chaoying, who was familiar with the philosophy of ancient Chinese imperial culture. Wang said "Ancient people in China, who respected nature and found beauty in it, had to name glasses as 'Kyouka' if they had them". His idea gave Yamashita a lot of confidence in creating his own glasses. He says:
"The basic idea of my work is that the products made with the feeling of vitality are welcomed by users. I would like there to be a richer diversity of tools available for people to use. I would like to respect the rich image of the word 'Kyouka' and strive to create distinguished glasses.
photo: Taiki Morishita