Glass blowing is an ancient art form started by Syrian craftsmen who produced and exported glass vessels to the Roman Empire in the 1st century. Its techniques have since evolved leading to the creation of everything from scientific apparatus for physics and chemistry experimentation to intricate chandeliers for luxury hotels. Glass structures and vessels have also become a common element of interior design in households. Until recently, quality customized glass designs were limited to industry-based cities like Firozabad, the glass city of India or commissioned abroad. But a homegrown studio has rekindled this old and rare craft in the city of Bombay.
We are talking about Mumbai’s first hot glass studio founded by acclaimed architect and light designer Arjun Rathi in collaboration with Ismail Plumber, a glass artist and architectural glass designer. Rural Modern Glass Studio came into existence sometime around the pandemic. During the lockdown, the cost of importing glass tripled which became a business setback for Arjun. As a solution, he decided to build a studio in Mumbai and make the glass in-house. Arjun partnered up with Ismail who has been in Mumbai’s commercial glass business for over 30 years and also has formal training in glass blowing from Turkey. Together, they found a commercial space in the industrial estate of Govandi, got the necessary permissions and began their fiery journey together.
Their studio is a high-ceiling workshop with ample natural light on the first floor, which is relatively unusual for a glass-blowing establishment considering the transportation of heavy equipment. Their setup includes an 80-kilo melting furnace, made in India instead of the normative export from Italy or the USA. Arjun bought the blueprints for the furnace as well as the Italian-American formula for clear glass to create fully homemade glass structures of international quality.
Also seen twisting molten balls of lava into vases and vessels, is Matthew Piepenbrok, an American resident artist at the studio and one of the five visiting international artists brought in to train a few glass-makers from Firozabad, working as helpers in the studio. Their aim is to help the craftsmen unlearn the assembly kind of industrial work and rather initiate and enhance their artistic sides to create original, unique glasses.
“As I have been working with glass over the last 10 years, I’ve noticed that there is limited accessibility, a lot of quality issues, and forms are very limited. So, the idea of starting this space is to allow other designers to come in just to make their glass. It’s to democratize glass-blowing.”, says Arjun.
On the 10th anniversary of Arjun Rathi Design, pieces from his lighting collections - Bauhaus, Sugar and Shikhara were also set up at an exhibition in ‘The Lighting Gallery’ in Chembur, a few months ago, some of which were made in the studio itself. It showcased the body of works by designers Brent Sheehan, Jeremiah Jacobs, Anjali Singh, Tim Soluna, and Matt Piepenbrock and indigenous artists Ajay Kumar and Kahahaiya Singh.
Rural Modern Glass Studio is a rapidly growing endeavour by the Indian artist and his craftsman partner bringing innovation to the art of glass blowing. They have already created and installed some stunning pieces like The Paan pendant light inspired by the desi delicacy illuminating Taro, a restaurant in Hyderabad and the Bullseye table lamp taking its form from the classic striped peppermint candy. Their aim is to attract people interested in the craft to its beauty through physical engagement and practice and collaborate to create timeless one-of-a-kind glass pieces inspired by traditional Indian designs.
To find out about their workshops, follow them here.