Ryo Yamashita was born in Tokyo and is an eyewear contemporary artist and academic member of Japan Society of KANSEI Engineering (JSKE).
He has a family history of chasers under the Edo shogunate (1603-1868). During this period, Ienari Togukawa, who was the eleventh shogun (1773-1841), ordered golden glasses to his ancestral chaser and he made them for him. He was the pioneer making golden glasses in Japan.
One of his ancestors, whose name was Ryoin, to celebrate this first order created his family business as glasses craftsman. Ryo Yamashita is the seventh generation of Ryoin.
He set up his own studio in 1998, where he established the first haute couture system for glasses.
Which is your story? Which is your philosophy of life and in work? When did you begin drawing glasses and why?
It is very difficult for me to explain the philosophy of my life, because I’m still looking for answers about my work, my philosophy and myself.
Although the fact of having a family history of chasers and glasses craftsmen is not an important reason for me to have a passion for making glasses as a work, I think that my interest in eyewear is closely related to the my family history.
During my search for the history of costumes and accessories, from ancient to early-modern ages, I aspired to inherit the spirits of craftsmanship and of glasses themselves.
Long time ago, the glasses which had been invented in Florence reached Japan.
Modern Japanese glasses have the same function and purpose as European and contemporary ones. On the other hand, they develop independently from the original style in the Japanese culture.
The ancient wisdom and the important values, such as knowledge and craftmanship, I have inherited from my ancestors always give me the answers and help me a lot. I believe they are useful for our contemporary society.
I respect my ancestors and I feel a sense of affinity with the period they lived in, believing it was not so different from ours.
I think that glasses are like a partner in our life, a familiar and useful tool flattering our originality.
I presaged that I should enhance the value of glasses as a piece of art and emphasize their function of being more than just a tool.
By making glasses I am trying to achieve the truth that human beings have been searching for since the ancient period.
The Japanese traditional craftsmanship is made up of the unremitting trial looking for sophisticated things, such as skills, functions or shapes, after getting rid of useless decorations and parts. I am always making and designing my eyewear basing on this trial as well.
What are the best tools?
My glasses are made from very simple materials such as iron and bamboo.
My design is different from what you can find in the product design in these days. I wish to stimulate sensitivity and make people understand the truth. Accordingly, it is natural that the shapes of my glasses could reach sophisticated beauty and I would like to prove that the most sophisticated function is the most beautiful.
Since ancient times human beings have been with their tools like interacting partners.
The consumption products today are very convenient but, on the other hand, convenience sometimes makes people degenerate and insensitive.
There is a lot of passion as well as poetry in your work, where do they come from? What they derive from?
The roots of my passion are the skills and the craftsmanship I have learnt from my masters. Their love helps my imagination, I understand their teaching even though I still have not truly understood which are their hopes for me.
My masters inherited their skills and spirits from a lot of old masters through a long period of time. I respect them and I adore to imagine their life. I believe that my mission is to become their living proof.
See the LYF hard copy for the full interview.