Micromosaics glitter as fashion accessories / Handcrafted montages of glass add original flair to any situation

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Micromosaic pendants and brooches

Specks of glass have never looked so lovely as they do in micromosaics, an art form in which tiny pieces of glass are arranged in a small frame to create a painting-like effect. The brilliance of the multicolored glass adds a gorgeous splash to an outfit when the artwork is worn as a fashion accessory.

The decorative technique was developed in Italy and used on ceilings in churches and for decorating artifacts.

In the 18th century, micromosaic artists created replicas of famous paintings for display at a church in the Vatican.

The technique was also used to make buttons, brooches and various accessories depicting Roman landscapes and other scenery.

Micromosaic artwork became a popular souvenir.

“Glass has a different texture from that of precious metals and plastics,” said Masaaki Nakano, president of the Japan Micro Mosaic Association. “Each piece of glass is slightly different in shape, and the way its appearance changes when reflecting light is also attractive.”

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Glass pieces are laid inside the frame of a brooch with tweezers.

To make a pendant, for example, a wooden or metallic frame is created for the shape, and clay bond is applied within it. Then, the space is filled with glass pieces using tweezers. The glass is mainly about 1 to 3 millimeters in size.

Nakano said that the fun of the process of assembling small glass pieces into a finished product and the sense of accomplishment upon completion is similar to that felt when putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

Pendant motifs can range from birds and horses to matryoshka Russian nesting dolls, and the pictorial patterns vary depending on the way the glass is set.

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Glass sticks are cut into round shapes.

“One of the interesting things about micromosaic art is that, even with the same motif and combination of glass pieces, the result can be different depending on the individuality of the creator,” Nakano said.

Mosaics can also be made. One of Nakano’s works, which depicts the scene of a raid in “Chushingura,” a famous Japanese tale of vengeance, is a large work that took him almost six months to complete.

Parts for complex patterns, such as human faces and flowers, are made by combining different colored glass.

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A large work depicting the scene of a raid in “Chushingura”

First, different colors of glass rods or other raw materials are heated over a burner to the point of melting and then fused together. Next, the artist uses a spatula or trowel to arrange their shapes, before stretching them into sticks. After the glass has cooled, the sticks are cut into rounded shapes using a glass cutter. Voila, the glass pieces are ready.

Because special equipment and skills are required, Nakano recommends that beginners use ready-made materials. Glass sticks and glasswork kits are available on the association’s website (https://micromosaic.jp/).

“If you make an original, one-of-a-kind accessory, you’ll feel more attached to it,” Nakano said. “I hope you enjoy wearing your creation.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A glass rod is heated over a burner.

Elegant sash clips for kimono

Nakano’s family used to run a kimono shop, and he hit upon the idea of creating micromosaic accessories for the traditional garb. An obidome ornamental sash clip with a cat’s face motif adds an elegant charm to kimono style.

“Colorful micromosaic art looks great not only on Western clothes, but also with kimono,” Nakano said.