Blow glass dates back to 1 BCE, evidence of which has been found in excavations in Taxila in Pakistan. But it is only in the early 16th century that the Mughals brought to India the craft that we know today.
The Persian influence and techniques led to the creation of a variety of blow glass artefacts such as hookahs, chimney shades, perfume bottles, urns, and jugs. The same period saw the advent of glass gilding and colouring techniques. Post Independence, however, the glass industry that grew around the Firozabad area in Uttar Pradesh focussed on moulded glass, and the art of glass blowing was restricted to a few artists.
However, an increasing number of lighting designers want blow glass for their designs, and are encouraging the glass blowers of Firozabad to help them create custom glassware.
Then there’s Klove, a Delhi-based design studio, which adapts mixed glass-blowing techniques used by the surgical glass industry to produce massive (4 ft.-6 ft.) blow glass orbs that are fashioned into contemporary lighting and décor. Price: Rs 45,000 to Rs 7.5 lakh.
“Given the scale of the glass industry and trained labour, there is a huge potential to create luxury products in India,” says Srila Mukherjee, perhaps the best-known Indian blow glass artist. For a full-blown industry, she adds, what is needed is “emphasis on design and training”.