Yoichi Ohira (1946–2022)
Yoichi Ohira, a Japanese glass artist who resided in Venice for over twenty-five years until his passing, challenged the conventional attributes of glass art—typically hard, fragile, cold, and weighty. His luminous blown glass vessels offered a tactile exception, inviting viewers to handle them like Wunderkammer specimens. These small, lightweight creations beckoned exploration, showcasing Ohira's abstracted design vocabulary inspired by gemstones, polished ivory, veined rocks, shimmering water, agate, moss, and lichens.
Comparing Ohira to Emile Gallé for his ability to emulate the natural world in glass, his work also draws parallels to Jean Dunand's bronze vessels, Japanese rokusho patina, and Otto Natzler's volcanic glazes—a remarkable convergence of diverse media translated into glass.
A graduate of Tokyo's Kuwasawa Design School in 1969, Ohira embarked on a glassblowing apprenticeship at the Kagami Crystal Company, Ltd. In 1973, he moved to Venice to study at the Accademia di Belle Arti. Ohira's deep connection with Murano, starting in 1973 at the Fucina degli Angeli, continued with his role as artistic director at Murano's De Majo glassworks in 1987. In the late 1980s, Ohira collaborated with Murano glassmakers, receiving the prestigious "Premio Selezione" of the Premio Murano in 1987. In 1992, he embarked on an independent career, collaborating with master glassblower Livio Serena and master glass cutter Giacomo Barbini.
In his more than four decades of artistic journey, Ohira has seamlessly blended Japanese aesthetics with traditional Italian glass techniques. Merging the vibrant colours of Muranese glass with the subtle forms of Japanese applied arts, grounded in nature. His vessels, showcased alongside works by renowned artists such as Dale Chihuly, Lino Tagliapietra, Carlo Scarpa, and Alvar Aalto, have earned him a prominent position in the global glass art scene.
Ohira’s works have been exhibited internationally, solidifying his legacy as a major contributor to the narrative of contemporary glass art. His work, present in major collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Corning Museum of Glass, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and the American Craft Museum.