Heller Gallery is pleased to present Droplets, the first solo exhibition of work by designer and glass artist Michiko Sakano. The exhibition marks the debut of Sakano’s inaugural lighting collection.
An internationally renowned master glassblower, Sakano has been the fabricator for many leading designers including regular collaborations with Lindsey Adelman and Jorge Pardo. The Droplet series was born from her desire to wrest the glass she makes from the dictate of the hardware with which it is commonly combined to create light fixtures. Instead, she has set out to make pieces that feel more spontaneous and are about glass, volume, and roundness, not hardware and engineering.
I wanted to go back to freeing my own process and making the glass the primary focus of the fixture. I looked to create a form that captures a sense of movement, like it is pushing towards something, a force in motion, not rigid and stiff.
Equipped with LED lights and a single cord, each of the thirteen Droplet lights in the exhibition features the most basic forms that result from the encounter between a gathering of molten glass and the force of human breath: a bubble, which subject to gravity transforms into a drop. The two most striking features of the resulting Droplets are their soft shapes and bright warm color palette, which centers on a summer-yolk yellow, occasionally veering to a lemony shade or a rich cream. Sakano draws on the many tones of yellow available in glass amplified further by the way they are changed as they are lit; shifting from object to light source and subtly playing with the color transition, which we perceive as reflected or transmitted.
Sakano grew up in a family of respected kimono makers in Kanazawa, a city on the west coast of Japan recognized by UNESCO for its crafts and folk arts. The influence of traditional Japanese aesthetics—with its emphasis on minimalism, discipline of line and the rigor of handcraft—shaped her perspective as an artist and designer early. Her works are widely recognized for their originality and technical precision. In recent years, her focus has shifted beyond fabricating for others to pursuing her own practice, exploring glass textures, colors, techniques, and natural forms.
Michiko Sakano holds a BA in Sculpture from Syracuse University and an MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Co-founder of One Sixty Glass, a glassblowing studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which she ran from 2000 to 2009, Sakano has been a visiting artist and taught courses at the Cleveland Institute of Art, MIT, New York University, Ohio State University, Tyler School of Arts, University of Wisconsin, UrbanGlass, Pilchuck Glass School, the Penland School of Craft and others in the US, Europe, and Japan.
In 2023 her work was included in a group exhibition at the new Bedford Art Museum, New Bedford, MA, and is held in public collections of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY, and the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA. Her work has been featured in multiple art and design publications including The New York Times, Architectural Digest, Elle Décor, Food & Wine, and House and Garden. She lives and works in Brooklyn.