At the recently-concluded exhibition, The Glass Menagerie, held in New Delhi at the Bikaner House, artist Reshmi Dey was overwhelmed with the appreciation that she received from the viewers. She was among 18 glass makers from across the country, who took part in the show, which also saw the official launch of The Glass Makers Club. Founded by Ashwini Pai Bahadur, director, Artspeak India, the platform hopes to shine the spotlight on the medium of glass and its multiple avatars.
Dey, a Delhi-based artist, who hails from Assam, fell in love with the material in 1998, and honed her skills ever since. In 2017, she launched Glass Sutra, a first-of-its-kind glass art studio in India. She admits that in these 25 years or so, people’s perception of glass has certainly undergone a change but only as far as using the material in decorative ways. Although glass as an art form has existed for thousands of years in India, there is still a long way to go for the appreciation of the craft.
One of the reasons behind this, in Dey’s opinion, is people’s perception of glass being a fragile material and, therefore, risky as an investment. She hopes to change that perception with the workshops she holds in her studio as well as through the initiatives of The Glass Makers Club that aims to bring together artists, practitioners, writers, connoisseurs, and collectors, and to collectively address the infrastructural challenges that makers of glass continue to face. The Club is looking to hold a bigger exhibition sometime in the first quarter of the next year, while Dey is working on a solo exhibit planned for the end of 2023.
Dey continues to be fascinated by how the raw molten material gets manipulated to take on various forms. “These forms can be very strict or really fluid. In its strict form, multiple numbers of pieces can be created using a mould for commercial purposes or in huge installations. On the other hand, the fluid form is created by hand. This is where your hands, eyes, head and heart work in tandem," she shares.
Most are familiar with the decorative stained-glass windows seen in churches and cathedrals but there are several other techniques that can be used to make beautiful and functional works of art. Some of these include glass blowing (including hand-blown and mouth-blown), working with a sharp flame to create smaller pieces, fusing and slumping, and kiln casting where the cold glass is placed inside a mould in a kiln, among several others.
Even with all these techniques available, the temperamental material throws many challenges at anyone trying to manipulate it. Dey’s advice? Understand the material and learn as much about it as you can. Comparing it to nurturing a loving relationship, the artist says that glass has the tendency to break if not handled properly.
All said and done, Dey believes that glass art has a huge potential in India. “There are people who buy artwork from international glass makers and artists. There are private collectors in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai, who don’t yet believe that Indian glass artists can produce art work of that international standard,” she says. However, things seem to be looking up in recent times and she believes that initiatives by organisations such as The Glass Makers Club will hopefully bring in the attention the art form rightfully deserves.