Hand Blown Glass
The art of glass blowing involves the fabrication of glass materials into a variety of shapes. Glass is a unique material that offers a high degree of flexibility when heated at high temperatures; it can be shaped into a wide variety of products of different designs, forms, colours, and appearance.
The craft in its variations is practised around the world. The history of the craft can be traced back to the First Century BCE in Syria. Excavations found in Taxila (modern-day Pakistan) indicate that the craft had been practised thousands of years ago in the Indian subcontinent, but, its current form that is still in vogue was introduced in the early 16th century by Persian glassmakers during the Mughal dynasty.
Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh mastered the art of blowing glass and other glass crafts. It met the royal demand for jhad and fanus ( types of chandeliers) and produced vials for perfumes and boxes for cosmetics. At present, Firozabad is the heart of India's glassmaking industry and employs several craftsmen in the region.
Hand-blown glass products undergo many steps before coming about in a particular form and tools such as jacks, marvers, blocks, shears, blowpipes, etc are used. First, glass is melted in a furnace with added compounds of limestone, potash, ash, and sand. The melted glass changes into a dark burning orange colour. This molten glass is cut with a shearing blade to form a glob. The glob is then placed on the end of a blowpipe and inflated by the Karigar (craftsman) into a mould, which is then rolled on a cold carbon surface to give it shape. Great skills are necessary to make the glass take a specific shape or pattern while maintaining uniform thickness on all sides.
Glass blowing is a rising high-priced recreational activity globally, with luxury stamped all over it. However, in India, there has been a decline in the practice of the craft. As it requires a lot of expertise and an extensive training period, more artisans have turned to the moulded glass craft technique, and the art of glass blowing is now restricted to a few.
However, the beauty of hand-blown glass products is still incomparable and artisans have kept the craft alive by introducing new designs and colours. Traditionally, it was used to make lamps, jars, and beakers, but they have also branched out to make glass toys, statues, and even jewellery. An increasing number of lighting designers are also using blown glass for their projects. With a bit more emphasis on design and training, hand-blown glass craft can truly unlock its potential for a luxury market.