Pick of the week: Learning to shape glass
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“Come, let’s play with fire and glass,” says glass artist Reshmi Dey as we enter her newly opened studio in Delhi’s Chattarpur area.
Spread across 5,000 sq. ft, the studio, Glass Sutra, is dedicated to everything glass and offers short workshops on the craft. “It can host up to 15 people at a time and is open to anyone and everyone, with experience (of working with glass) or without. We offer workshops, ranging from basic glass art and craft to intensive glass-art classes, where participants can learn about techniques like glass-blowing, flame-working and cold-working. Our job is to impart awareness and appreciation about this transparent material, which dates back to 4,000 BC,” says Dey.
She adds: “We use glass in almost every part of our lives, from the kitchen to the clothes and to the wall; we buy it based on the varied colours and patterns inscribed on it, but how many times do we really stop to think about how these shades and designs ended up there?”
To take a virtual tour of the studio and see how glass-blowing is done see video below.
It is hot inside the studio. A furnace (a piping-hot 1,500 degrees Celsius) is tucked away in one corner, along with five-six blowpipes (about 3m long), which are used to shape molten or heat-softened glass—a process known as glass-blowing. “We use discarded glass from a manufacturer, as it’s safer (generally, manufacturing companies use silica to create glass, constant exposure to which can lead to decreased pulmonary function and lung disease), to create whatever one desires, from tableware, vases, lamps and decanters to jewellery, crystal balls, art pieces. You can add colours and patterns too to your creation using different hand movements. Each creation can take 15-45 minutes, depending on your experience,” explains Dey.
At the other end of the studio is equipment for cold-working (a way of shaping, grinding and polishing glass). Adjacent to that section are craftsmen, wearing goggles for safety, busy working on a sculpture using flame-work, a technique where a torch or a lamp is used to melt the glass. “I have invited them from Firozabad, the glass city of India, to help me promote the education of studio glass art,” says Dey. The studio is also running a visiting artist programme under which an international glass artist is invited each month to conduct workshops. Helen Tegeler from the US’ Corning Museum of Glass is here this month; Debra Ruzinsky and Julie Conway, both from the US, will be visiting in April.
It was around 1995-96 that Dey saw some glasswork made in Firozabad at a friend’s house. She did some research on the Internet and decided to head to Firozabad to learn glass-blowing. She stayed there for a year to understand the craft.
Dey eventually got a scholarship at the International Glass Centre in the UK to study and improve her technique. Two and a half years after studying and following master glass craftsmen in Europe, Dey returned to India in 2004. “Glass art is an old art form, but there’s hardly any awareness about it in our country. I want youngsters to take up glass-blowing as a medium of creative expression.”
Glass Sutra, 19, Ambavatta Green Road, Chattarpur Farms, Delhi. The studio offers 4-hour workshops in batches (groups of six and above; timings can be pre-booked); fee per person, Rs1,900 (materials are provided, so is safety equipment, including goggles and gloves).Click here for details.