Naoko Takenouchi is a British Columbian based glass artist who is, perhaps, best admired for her unusual and intricate sandblasting and sand-carving techniques. Meticulous and demanding, her work explores the whimsical, organic and natural worlds.  

Takenouchi has worked as a glass artist since 1983, when she began a four-year course of study in design and glassblowing at the Tama Art University, Tokyo. Subsequently, she studied glassblowing at the highly regarded New York Experimental Glass Workshop. In 1993, and again in 1998, she was honored with scholarships to attend the world-renowned Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State under Dale Chihuly.  

In 1995 her glass art was among only 100 pieces selected from thousands of international applicants and for inclusion in the prestigious ‘New Glass Review 16,’ which is published annually by the Corning Museum of Glass.  

Takenouchi has explored different approaches to color application, form and sandblasting techniques. Some of her classic engraving techniques back to Roman times. Another process she uses originated in the 1870s and involves high-pressure etching with fine grain garnet beads. Although she may explore themes in her work, each piece is unique in color, form and images used.  

Every series she does she explores inspiration from without and within. Each of the pieces in her ‘Myth & Dreams’ series of bowls and vases has a unique engraved design, usually depicting a dream, a visual metaphor or allegory. She sought to capture a dreamlike, mythical quality to the series so uniquely and incredibly technically demanding, she engraved each design from the narrow confines of the inside of the vessel. Thus, all the images - nymphs, goddesses, jesters, animals and more - were drawn upside-down and backwards by the artist.  

For ‘Myth & Dreams’ Naoko first hand blew the vessel, usually in two or three successive, transparent, different colored layers - achieving incredible thinness and symmetry for three layers of glass. The lip of each vessel is not ground down afterwards but is finished as part of the glass blowing process and each piece is finished with a clear crystal foot.  

Amazingly, all the images were drawn freehand using a sandblasting gun, and the different colors and shades were achieved by sand carving through the different layers to different depths. The subtle differences in shading is evident to her sandblasting skill but her loss rate was still significant due to puncturing through the outer layer to achieve the lighter shades.  

The effect allows the viewer to see through the transparent colored layers to see the juxtaposition of the entire scene from any angle. The reflective property of the glass is maintained, allowing the different shades to shine through. In these pieces she conveys her sensitive interpretations of human figures, flowers, trees, animals, birds and other related images.  

Takenouchi’s work has been shown at major galleries, museums and juried exhibitions throughout the world. In 1995 she exhibited her work at ‘The International Exhibition of Glass’ in Kanazawa and The Canadian Craft Museum. Among her commission are two CBC Sports Awards for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the President’s Award for Starbucks Coffee. In 2002, Takenouchi was invited to be one of the jury members for the Saidy Bronfman Award in Ottawa. Her work is included in numerous pubic and private collections around the world.