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K-State Today

May 7, 2015



Ohno ships set sail for Union

By Audrey Taggart-Kagdis

Union logo

Persistence, patience and perseverance described the mood as K-State Student Union administration and operations staff, in conjunction with Kansas State University facilities and chemistry department staff, relocated five Mitsugi Ohno scale-model glass replicas in late March.

The Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria, the USS Constitution and the HMS Victory glass replicas were removed from the Chemistry/Biochemistry Building and joined replicas of Anderson Hall, Cardwell Hall, the USS Nimitz, the USS Missouri and the White House on display on the second floor concourse of the Union. The combination of these sculptures creates the single largest collection of Ohno's work in the world. The Mayflower remains with the chemistry department.

Ohno began his career as a glassblower in 1947 at the University of Tokyo. He joined K-State in 1961 and retired as a senior master glassblower in 1996. During his service to the university, Ohno constructed the first true Klein bottle, which is an enclosure continuous with its outer surface constructed by twisting a tube through an opening in the side of the tube and joining it to the other end.

Thousands of hours of work went into to each piece Ohno created, yet he never accepted payment in return. His book, "The Biography of a Glassblower in Kansas," details his philosophy to give away his art. "It is not hard to part with them because I take so much pride in giving them away," he wrote.

His wife Nao, who lives in Manhattan, echoed her husband's generosity as she personally invited the staff involved with the move to lunch at the Union's Bluemont Buffet. "He felt it was important to be honest, and money is not important," Nao said. When asked if he had a favorite piece, Nao replied, "All were his favorites, as scientific glassware is used on a temporary basis and his art is permanent."

Ohno achieved recognition nationally and internationally for his highly prized and artistic glass creations. His unique glass vessels, art objects and replicas of famous buildings and ships have been donated to and displayed in such prestigious locations as the Smithsonian Institution, White House, Imperial Palace of Japan, National Archives and Eisenhower Presidential Library.

He authored 12 monographs, textbooks and papers, and was honored with several awards and citations, including the Kansas Governor's Special Lifetime Arts Recognition Award, the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Cultural Merit, and the Fifth Order of Merit, Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays — a very special honor from the Emperor of Japan.

He died Oct. 22, 1999, having nearly completed his last model of the Japanese sailing vessel, Kanrin Maru, which also is on display with his bust and other personal items in the Union.

Ohno's work can be viewed on the second floor concourse in the Union during regular business hours. Photos of the move can be viewed on the Union's website. For more information about the Union pieces, contact Audrey Taggart-Kagdis at akagdis@k-state.edu. Video footage of Ohno at work can be found here.