For Ritsue Mishima, born in Japan but Venetian by adoption, glass exercised an immediate, fatal attraction. She was instantly captivated by the thrill of the flames, the incandescent paste, and the way bubbles of molten sand could be moulded into shapes.
Ritsue originally worked as a stylist in advertising and had always nurtured a great love for flowers and for the objects that contain them. “It was purely by chance that I started working with glass,” she recounts. “I was already living in Venice and I wanted to buy a vase for my home to put flowers in, but I couldn’t find anything I liked. So, I decided that I would make the vase I had in mind myself. That’s how I got into the world of glass and then fell in love with it.”
Ritsue lives between Kyoto and Venice, two seemingly irreconcilable realities, and not just in terms of distance and culture. But despite the difficulties, Ritsue has turned her commute into a resource.
“The continual mixing of two contrasting cultures has presented me with a constant opportunity for growth: every time I do the journey I feel an outpouring of creative energy. In Venice, my life is frenetic, I work like crazy at the glass furnace, starting at 5 in the morning, then I go to my studio to organize things, speak to people, meet people. In Kyoto instead, contrary to what you’d expect, my pace is more sedate and my thinking and my creativity slows right down and finds a dimension that I feel more at home with.”
Spontaneous and direct, energetic yet concrete when tackling new challenges, Ritsue is a real mix of rigour and chaos, of tradition and future.
Her glass pieces take their inspiration from natural forms and are strictly colourless. The reflections created by the play of light and the different transparencies in her work are unique.
Her experience of working in Murano (with Muranese glass master Andrea Zilio) has led her to an appreciation of the element of chance that is always present when working in glass: that magic moment of surprise or disappointment.
“Even after so many years of working in the glass furnace, I’m convinced that there are still things to explore. In my battle with the material and with time, the Muranese glassmakers are with me every inch of the way. The outcome is always a new discovery. What I love about working in the furnace is that element of chance and surprise, that race against time.”
Japan shines through the interiors of her Venetian home-studio in which formal clarity and purity set the tone, and where light is invited in at every hour of the day to play over the reflective surfaces and transparencies of her glass pieces, and to delineate her aesthetic vision.