Takeshi Sano, Yoko Sano
Though they form a husband and wife team, both Takeshi and Yoko Sano are renowned Japanese glass artists in their own rights. Both are known for their artistic expression through delicate and controlled color work.
Most glasswork pieces fall into one of two categories – cut glass, or blown glass. The Sanos, however, erase the boundary between the two. The couple’s pieces are first blown from molten glass; several shapes are then finely cut and combined, and the form is fired again. Finally, the piece is cut and polished in a labor-intensive process that brings out the strongest aspects of both cut- and blown-glass works.
The pair’s work can be found in the collections of the Corning Museum of Glass, in New York. Having one’s pieces displayed at the museum is one of the highest honors in the glassmaking world.
Born in Chiba Prefecture, Takeshi has held an interest in crafting since he was a child, and carried that passion with him until his college years, when he decided that, upon graduation, he would take a job where he could apply his artistic skills.
Takeshi became deeply interested in glassmaking after seeing a glass arts exhibition at a department store. At that time, glassmaking had only a short history in Japan; that, along with the lack of a traditional teacher-student system in the glass arts field, was what led Takeshi to build his career there. “I like new things,” he says. “At that time, glassmaking in Japan had a very ‘new’ image – it was the obvious choice.”
After firming up his resolve, Takeshi spent two years at a technical glassmaking college in Tokyo, and continued to receive glass arts training for several years after that, on his weekends off from his part-time job. It was through this training that he met his wife.
After studying English Literature in college, Yoko Sano entered the computer programming division of a major automobile manufacturer, leading a life with no connection whatsoever to the arts. One day, however, after long admiring the artistry of the rocks glasses she saw at bars, Yoko ran across an article on a glassmaking workshop that was offering classes. She made up her mind to begin lessons, and started that weekend.
“If I were drawing, the fact that I’m poor at it would be apparent right away, but I figured that, since glasswork was a completely new field for me, nobody would be tell right away if I was good at it or not – so I went with glass!” she says, laughing.
She ended up taking classes at the workshop for four years, and it was during that time that she met her husband, Takeshi Sano. At the time, she says, she didn’t necessarily aspire to be a glass artist – just a competent assistant to her husband.
After they married, the couple immediately relocated to Ishikawa Prefecture, to work at the Notojima Glass Studio, where they worked for a total of 7 years. During the latter part of their terms there, the two took a year and two months off from their normal duties to study glass arts at the Australian National University’s School of Art in Canberra, Australia.
It was the couple’s experience in Canberra that led them to firmly commit to their current artistic style. Studying overseas in a country with a long history of, and large market for, the glass arts also allowed the couple to encounter combinations of glassworking techniques that they had never before imagined, and encountering a wealth of rich creative power was a deeply formative experience for the two.
One year after their return, the couple moved to Toyama Prefecture, where they founded their own studio.
“I thought that, to enjoy life, I needed to do work that I enjoyed. It worked – I love my job. I want to keep taking on new challenges and trying out new techniques – I want to create works with a stronger impact than any before them,” Takeshi says excitedly.
Even though she is now a first rate artisan to rival her husband, Yoko is kind, modest, and above all, supportive: “Working with someone who can’t help but love his job is more fun than anything,” she says with a laugh.