Kyohei Fujita was one of Japan’s leading glass artists, who was well-known for creating glasswork that resembled traditional Japanese lacquered boxes. His mottled and gilt decoration was intricate and beautiful, and his work is celebrated to this day, with his work gaining an international reputation and his small intricate boxes selling for thousands of dollars.
Fujita was born in Okubo-cho, Toyotama-gun, Tokyo (now Hyakunin-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo) in 1921 and he first apprenticed under a metalworker before eventually moving into glass and studying at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. Fujita began to experiment with combining traditional Japanese designs with modern glassmaking techniques and he created his own field of glassmaking designing decorative boxes that mixed colored glass and gold leaf.
Fujita’s technique involved layering two colors of molten glass over a punti (a gathered glob of molten glass) before encasing them in clear glass. He would then carve away layers of glass with a diamond saw to reveal the different colors beneath. This process is known as incisation carving, and it allowed Fujita to create precise geometric patterns in his work.
The boxes range from small rectangular examples, to square boxes to hexagonal examples. Most boxes are signed to the underside in vibro-engraving. Boxes can vary in size from smaller examples at 6 × 12 × 6 cm to larger examples being 14 × 19 × 20 cm.
He worked at the Iwata Glass Company and became independent in 1949, using the facilities of various glass-making workshops to realize his designs, and held his first solo exhibition in 1957. In 1955, he won first prize at the 4th Japan Traditional Art Crafts Exhibition for his piece “Matsubarabako,” which featured lacquerware-inspired decoration on a glass box. The following year, he had his first solo exhibition at the Idemitsu Museum of Arts in Tokyo. In 1970, he became a member of the Japan Kogei Association (now known as the Japan Crafts Association). He also served as president of the Fukui Prefecture Kogei Association from 1971 to 1972. Along with Iwata Hisatoshi, he played a major role in the establishment of the Japan Glass Artcrafts Association in 1972. In 2002, he became the first glass craftsman to receive the Order of Culture.
Fujita’s work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions both in the US and internationally, and his pieces are held in the collections of The Corning Museum of Glass, the Victoria and Albert Museum and The Met, among others.