A motley crew gets ready to try its hands at an unknown art form at a newly-opened studio in Chhatarpur in Delhi. I am a part of this group that includes a businessman of air-conditioners, a psychology graduate working on a travel start-up and a designer.
Armed with thick goggles, we are to create an object by holding multi-coloured rods over a torch that is lit by massive cylinders. One person chooses to make an Om, another to write the word “Tub” in green, a third to create a spiral maze, and we pick a penguin. At the end of four hours, the workshop yields satisfactory results, though the spiral is more serpentine and our penguin is overly healthy.
The workshop, titled Glassperience, is headed by glass artist Reshmi Dey who is helped by Vishnu, a flameworker from Firozabad, which is famous as a glass industry. “After being introduced to the art of glass by the maestro Petr Novotny from the Czech Republic in 2001, I went to the glass factories in Firozabad to learn the art. I had won a scholarship at International Glass Centre, Dudley College, in the UK in 2002. Later, I travelled through Europe to expose myself to every country that specialises in glass art. Sweden has its own technique and Italy offers a different experience. The people of these countries connect glass with their culture. In India, we have a system of mass generation. I wanted to break that,” says Dey.
An important technique is glass-blowing. Standing in front of a furnace that can heat up to 1,200 degree Celsius, we inserted a long iron rod into a hole and constantly rolled it. More rolling and shaping later, we carefully blow a bubble into the glass.
The studio’s highlight is a visiting artist programme, where an international glass artist is invited every month to conduct workshops. Among such experts are Helen Tegeler from the Corning Museum of Glass in the US, American artist Debra Ruzinsky and Seattle-based Julie Conway. “In India, people think that glass is very unfriendly and that glassblowing is dangerous because lots of chemicals are used and that it may cause lung problems. I want to help change it from an unfriendly medium to a friendly material in people’s minds,” says Dey.
Glass Sutra also holds corporate programmes to support team building activities as well as offers modules for parties where children can create their own ice cream bowls, among others.
Dey wants to explore other possibilities. Robert M Minkoff Foundation, for instance, sponsors glass art studios for destitute children, drug addicts and youth from abusive families. By September, Dey plans a similar programme for the girl child and the physically-challenged. “Glass can cut you and fire is a challenging medium because it can burn you. If they see an outcome within 15 minutes or half an hour, aren’t they going to be proud? We want to empower everyone to find the creative power of glass,” says Dey.
Workshops are held at Glass Sutra, Studio Number 6/7, 19 Ambavatta Lane Green, Chhattarpur, Delhi. They are priced at Rs 2,200. Contact: 9811992770, firstname.lastname@example.org