Treasures of the Library: Lazuline Glass Vase with Translucent Lip

Lazuline glass vase with translucent lip by Hamada Yoshio
(height 20 cm, diameter 15 cm)

You may be acquainted with the Cortazzi Collections in the Lisa Sainsbury Library, such as old maps, ukiyo-e and antiquarian books, as they are regularly featured in this publication. In addition to these materials, Sir Hugh and Lady Cortazzi have also given three dimensional objects on long term loan. A glass vase created by Hamada Yoshio (1944-2011) is from the collection housed at the Sainsbury Institute. 

Many of you might not be familiar with the glass artist Hamada Yoshio, but you might know his father, Hamada Shōji (1894-1978).

Hamada Shōji was a renowned ceramic artist in Mashiko1, a Living National Treasure and one of the most important figures in the Japanese Folk Craft Movement (Mingei Undō). When he worked for Kyoto Ceramic Research Center, he came to know Bernard Leach in 1918.2

Along with Bernard Leach, Hamada went to the UK in 1920. He helped Leach to build a Japanese traditional style climbing kiln (noborigama) in St Ives, Cornwall3, and Hamada and Leach enjoyed creating pottery there. After making a considerable amount of work, Hamada held his first solo exhibition at W.B. Paterson’s Gallery in Old Bond Street, London in 19234. Hamada left the UK at the end of the year and travelled for some time in Europe, reaching Japan in March 1924. Together with Yanagi Muneyoshi and Kawai Kanjirō, he promoted the Japanese Folk Craft Movement. He started making pottery in Mashiko, Tochigi Prefecture from 19315.

In 1955, he was the one of the first people to be designated as a holder of Important Intangible Cultural Properties, which is commonly known as a ‘Living National Treasure’. He was also awarded a Medal with Purple Ribbon in 1964, and the Order of Culture in 1968. He died in 1978 at the age of 83. His works can be seen by accessing the V&A’s website. Unfortunately, the Cortazzi Collection does not contain any of Hamada Shōji’s work.

One of Hamada Shōji’s sons, Yoshio, chose not to become a ceramic artist like his father, but decided to work in glass. After graduating from the Department of Sculpture at Tama Art University in 1968, he enrolled in the School of Material Ceramics & Glass at the Royal College of Art in London in the following year. In 1973, a year after graduating from the College, he set up his art studio with furnaces in Kanuma City, Tochigi Prefecture and started producing his artwork when there were few individuals who had their own glass- producing furnaces.

His hand blown glassworks with colours are described as a style reminiscent of pottery6, although he chose to take a different path to his father. It is undeniable that there is some degree of resemblance between the ceramic works of the Japanese Folk Craft Movement and the glasswork of Yoshio held at the V&A. Unlike the relatively ornate V&A’s vase, the vase in the Cortazzi Collection is quite simple and somewhat naïve, yet it retains its briskness and integrity through its high artistry.

Hamada Yoshio died suddenly in May 2011 at the age of 66.

Akira Hirano
Lisa Sainsbury Library


1. A small town in Japan in the Kantō region.

2. Rice, P. and Gowing, C. 1989. British Studio Ceramics in the 20th Century.

3. Moes, R. and Stinchecum, A.M. and Hauser, W.B. 1995 . Mingei: Japanese Folk Art : from the Montgomery Collection.

4. Jones, Meghen, and Louise Allison Cort. 2020. Ceramics and modernity in Japan.

5. Tokyo Tech Museum and Archives. 2014. Shiryōkan Totteoki Memochō 5 “Tōki Korekushon”.

6. Nihon Keizai Shinbun. Tochigi-ken ban. Pp. 42. 2 September 1995.

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