Author Topic: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900  (Read 6706 times)

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Offline David E

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2008, 11:30:33 PM »
Adam: Thanks for the input - very interesting as always. When in Cambridge, we did discuss the possible reasons for the failure of the Shinagawa plant to make sheet glass (cylinder method, by the way), but really went round in circles! Perhaps it was simply uneconomical. But after about 1881, it is believed the Shinagawa works turned to art glass. James Speed, held in much regard by the Japanese, was still in attendance and was training the apprentices. There even exists a photo of him at this time.

Frank: At the time of all this happening in Japan, I believe all parts of Great Britain was commonly referred to as 'England'... (thanks Anne for the update) ;)

But the 'carving' of this flashed intaglio dish is truly remarkable - I do hope the photo can be posted here.

Edit: The method of spinning glass (bullseye) is called crown glass, so this was not the method that they could not reproduce. There is a photo on Glass Gallery somewhere that I posted, showing the disc being spun.

David
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Offline Lustrousstone

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2008, 07:27:02 AM »
It is possible that there simply might not have been a big enough market for sheet glass - Japanese houses were built of paper, wood and bamboo and the logistics of transporting glass might have been too difficult.

Offline David E

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2008, 08:30:41 AM »
No, it was a technical reason as there definitely was a market for sheet glass. Akiko informed me that Japan, at this time, was adopting a western-style outlook and traditional Japanese buildings were being cast aside, sadly :( I think it was a government policy to adopt western styles and values.

We have already mused on whether it was the ability to blow the cylinders of glass, the splitting or flattening, the furnaces, annealing, the availibility of minerals, the ability of the technologists, everything.

Edit: Perhaps the question of sheet glass should be treated as a separate topic? Rather diverse to art glass, so might not get the responses.
David
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Offline Frank

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2008, 01:11:54 AM »
It could have been a financial reason too, it was a highly competitive industry and several big players on the world market then. There could well have been attempts to impose levies on imports to try and make the local industry competitive. But if they were importing skills I would have thought technology was less of an issue. It was common everywhere for flat glass works to stop/start production as the market ebbed and flowed.
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Offline krsilber

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2008, 03:43:53 AM »
Maybe it just wasn't economical; perhaps importing it was cheaper.  I wonder what kind of (edit: and how much) sand there is in Japan, it being a volcanic area.

Quote
We have already mused on whether it was ...the availibility of minerals...

So, what was the availability of minerals, particularly silica?  Not an issue?

A split subject might be a good idea.
Kristi


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Offline David E

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #15 on: December 12, 2008, 11:19:02 AM »
Frank: From about 1875 (Akiko will correct me) the Shinagawe plant got nationalised, so the financial side might not have been an imperative. However, perhaps if the plant was non-profitable after several years of trying, did the owners realise that turning their attention to art glass would turn Shinagawa into a more economical venture? Hence the reason for pressed and blown art glass?

Kristi: The availability of minerals was definitely not an issue — as has already been shown, Shinagawa (and other glass-making companies in Japan) were producing items of all types, from well before 1870. The production of sheet glass does not really require any special chemicals, but besides, the company was importing certain equipment and chemicals, as has been proven by Jardine Matheson (correcting earlier spelling) manifests.
David
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Offline krsilber

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #16 on: December 12, 2008, 08:33:21 PM »
I don't want to belabor the issue, and it's a total speculative WAG, but I'll just explain my reasoning.  Japan is a bunch of volcanic islands and would have a geology reflective of that.  From what I gather, they do a lot of offshore mining for sand today, so presumably it's not abundant on land.  I would think that sheet glass would consume more sand relative to the price of the finished product than art glass (e.g. 1 tonne of sand might make $100 worth of sheet glass, but $1000 worth of goblets).  If sand was in short supply and therefore relatively expensive, perhaps it made more economic sense to use it for smaller, more expensive items.  This would be especially true if technological changes in the manufacture of sheet glass brought its price down, so something worth manufacturing in the 1860s may have been cheaper to import later.

Just an idea. ;D  There are so many potential factors involved, it's impossible to assess without knowing a lot more than I do, but I'm always happy to hypothesize! ;)
Kristi


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Offline Cathy B

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #17 on: December 13, 2008, 02:41:46 AM »
There are plenty of sandy beaches in Japan. As to the chemical composition of the sand, this piece suggests that there's quite a bit of silicone dioxide in the form of quartz dust - but perhaps the impurities make it difficult to refine for glassmaking?
http://sciencelinks.jp/j-east/article/200322/000020032203A0746666.php
These authors would know quite a bit about the composition of sand in Japan - maybe you could email them?

Other useful link: History of Glassmaking in Japan:
http://www.engravedglass.cz/lectures/3pred_takeda_en.html

According to this, in the mid-1800s, the Japanese had just started to move into automated glassmaking.

Just thinking, perhaps it has nothing to do with the sand. Maybe the earliest attempts at sheet glass were disasterous, the factories lost huge amounts of money, and so they had to move quickly into something more profitable before they folded.

I only suggest this because when the Australian glass manufacturer AGM moved into window glass in the 1930s, their first attempts were woeful (there are files full of complaints). If they hadn't been able to heavy the government to increase tariffs and rely on profits from their bottlemaking arm, I wonder whether they would have had to give up.

And now an anecdote about Japanese sand! Back in 1988, the Canberra Youth Orchestra Wind Ensemble were invited to a band festival in Shizuoka, Japan. Being organised by the locals, our movements had been planned to the slightest detail. We were told we had to stay in a stuffy, inner room without windows for three hours to 'tune up', with any stray escapee rounded up and shepherded back by our stern Japanese minders. Perhaps this was a comment on our musicianship?

After a week and a half of seeing more of the insides of schools than exploring Japan, we were frustrated, and so we whined and cajouled our minders to take us to a beach. They finally gave in, and we gathered our togs and towels and were driven to a nearby coastal area, Miho no Matsubara. My pictures from the day show a bunch of plump, white, teenagers standing on jet black sand, staring dejectedly out into a completely surfless beach on an overcast day. We'd been warned the water was too dangerous to swim in. That Mount Fuji was allegedly somewhere behind the mist made little difference. We did, however, see a very old tree, braced up with planks, on which "some mermaid had dumped her clothes", to quote a friend. Thinking back now, I'm embarrassed at how insular and self-centred we were. Here was a place of real significance, and yet we were disappointed because it didn't look like a standard Aussie beach. That black sand just seemed to sum up our feelings about the trip.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miho_no_Matsubara

Luckily, we did get to do a little sightseeing after the convention had ended, including a cheery jaunt to the museum at the epicentre of the Hiroshima blast. [No Nukes!]

Offline krsilber

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #18 on: December 13, 2008, 03:54:28 AM »
Cathy, that's a great link to the history of glassmaking in Japan!  Following up on that, I found an awesome link showing a huge range of Japanese art glass, but will start another thread with it.

FWIW, I found evidence that sand for glassmaking has been imported in Japan from Australia and Indonesia (they used to mine it on the Whitsundays in the 1960s).  Haven't had much luck tracking down direct information about the availability of sand suitable for glassmaking within Japan.  That's an interesting story about the beach at Miho no Matsubara changing from white to black.  Ya spoiled Aussies! ;D  How cool is a black sand beach?!  Did you hear the singing sands while you were there?  I've been to a green sand beach in Hawaii.


Kristi


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Offline Glen

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #19 on: December 13, 2008, 09:19:30 AM »
My article from 2006 on Japanese Glass.
http://www.geocities.com/carni_glass_uk_2000/Japan.html

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