Twenty years ago, Minori Takagi was looking for a new hobby. She took a class at a local glass studio in Shizuoka, Japan, where she dabbled in glass-blowing but found a surprising connection to torching (otherwise known as lampworking). Takagi began specializing in intricate, one-of-a-kind glass beads—called tombodama—with her tiny creations ranging from ornate flowers to quirky eyeballs to kawaii fruits and veggies. Her hobby grew into a passion, and that passion into a full-blown bead business. “In Japan, people collect them,” Takagi explains, “but they aren’t really jewellery.”

TakagiKyoko Fierro

After her move to Canada in 2006, Takagi found a small studio in East Vancouver and continued her molten magic—but Western consumers weren’t as hot on cute curios. That led her to start creating art that was less about stare-ability and more about wearability. Combining her skills in lampwork with her flair for fashion, she started torching finished, wearable pieces, and her traditional techniques employed in a contemporary style were a smash (she took home a Made in Vancouver Award in the Style category last year). These days, Takagi splits her time between a shared Granville Island studio and East Van’s Terminal City Glass Co-op. Glass may be one of the least forgiving materials, but there’s no stopping Takagi’s torch: “It’s challenging, but I like the challenge.”

TakagiKyoko Fierro