Akashi thinks a lot about the history of her materials and how they’ve been used by generations of humans before her. Glassmaking stretches back around 4,000 years to Mesopotamia, when someone discovered that sand could be heated, liquified, and manipulated into a scintillating, malleable substance. Early instructions, etched into a cuneiform tablet from the library of King Assurbanipal (reigned 668–627 B.C.E.), point to the process’s ritualistic beginnings: “On the day when you plan to place the glass in the kiln, you make a sheep sacrifice…you place juniper incense on the censer, you pour out a libation of honey and liquid butter, and then only [do] you place the glass in the kiln.” Later, starting around the 12th century C.E., deft Venetian artisans honed and perfected glass techniques on the island of Murano, churning out elaborate vases and chandeliers dripping with ornate, iridescent accretions.
Akashi, who has traveled to Murano, regularly visits museums to mine their age-old glass for inspiration; she’s particularly drawn to pieces where the human hand is visible in marks and slippages. “I get very excited about feeling humanity [in objects],” she explained, “to touch on humanity and the history of object-making throughout thousands of years.”