CHENNAI: From tiny attar bottles to huge terrarium bowls, The Madras Glassware House, which was set up in 1939 on Evening Bazar Road, has every glass item. Founded by Hazarimal, it is currently run by his three sons — H Sampath, H Bhupendra, and H Ashok. Originally from Rajasthan, the owners settled in Chennai during World War II. “Earlier, the shop used to be a tiny space with just a shutter. My father single-handedly managed the shop.
He has shared with us stories of bomb attacks in nearby areas during the war. People would buy oil lanterns to sustain their livelihood during power cuts on a daily basis. In the recent 10 years, glass has made its way into hotel businesses on a big level,” says Sampath, pointing at the neatly stacked glass bowls, tumblers, and jars.
The shop was renovated in 1988 and has been converted into a three-storey building. During the early days, glasses were imported from countries like Czechoslovakia and Sri Lanka. Now, they are sourced from Gujarat and Rajasthan because of the presence of factories and availability of raw materials.
The glasses come in bulk through trucks by road. Considering the fragility of the material, every piece is wrapped in newspaper and packed in a cardboard stuffed with hay. The shop also sells ceramic and enamel items, and is known for kitchen containers, flasks, thermoware, hotelware, crockery, dessert jars, and novelties. “Our specialty is glass because we’ve been dealing with it for almost 80 years now. Glass can be recycled and used. It is the safest option to use, both in terms of cost and hygiene,” explains Sampath. Among the highlights is their detox bottles that are popular in the IT sector. This bottle comes with a filter that can store mint or other coolants.
Talking about the different kinds of glass, he shares that first quality glass is priced higher, has a better colour, gloss, and it is not easily breakable. On the other hand, recycled glass has a dull appeal and is fragile. We point out that most milkshake and smoothie bars in the city have started using glass bottles in different shapes and sizes, to which Sampath says, “The biscuit jars, and tiny glasses at tea shops are made of recyclable glass. Meanwhile, the lip balms and body salts that you buy all come in an array of glass bottles, boxes and jars neatly sealed with a lid.
It is prevalent in cosmetic and salon markets as well. We have glass bottles designed according to the requirement. There is a different shape for serum, perfumes, and sprays. Even the organic honey and edible products come in glass containers.” The current trend is buying a glass item for a minimal amount, making a creative by-product out of it and selling it at a profitable price. The sale peaks during festive seasons. People buy dinner sets, bowls for sweets, and decorative items for gifting. The Madras Glassware House will soon open another outlet in Vepery. The shop has an optimistic view towards the future of glass industry.
Glass as a medium of art
Four years back Chennai-based artist Aarthi Sivaramakrishnan watched a YouTube video on decoupage, a French craft, which involves decorating objects with paper cut-outs. It can be done on any surface. With regard to glass, the process is followed by painting, varnishing, and sealing to give it a finished look. However, due to a shortage of raw materials in the early days, she started decoupage as a serious business only two years back.
“The items required were not easily available here. I needed different types of glues and paints. I’d ask my friends living abroad to get them for me. Eventually, Indian brands started manufacturing alternatives, and it made things easier,” says Aarthi, who runs The Colour Company, an online shop that sells handcrafted and decor items mainly made of glass. She uses soda bottle, mini jars, wine and juice bottles in all shapes and sizes for her artwork. Aarthi started collecting glasses as a community initiative about four years back. Now she has a studio and stacking space for glasses inside her house. She started her art experiments with glass by cutting, drilling holes and using them for indoor plants. Eventually that led to artwork using acrylic painting.
“I found the upcycling aspect of glass to be very interesting. One kilo of glass fetches just `3. So, rag pickers find it worthless and dump it. Cleaning and recycling is costlier than producing new bottles. So instead of seeing them as hazardous trash, I thought of creating art on glass and I realised it was a fascinating medium to work on,” says Aarthi. While decoupage might require meticulous work, painting on glass is comparatively easier. Glass is a nonporous medium, so she uses sand to prime it, make it rough, and then paints. This helps absorb paint.
“I am attracted to glass because of the sturdiness, colours, shapes, and tints. More than height, it’s the circumference that determines the kind of design that can go on it. Round, square, and flat-surfaced bottles are the most preferred. I have made flower vases, lamp shades, standalone lamps, and home décor items with glass. People are open to having quirky home décor made by repurposing old materials. The latest trend is using these glass artworks as return gifts,” she says. For details call: 09384871266
She conducts beginner, intermediate, and advanced workshops, twice a month. More than 200 students have cleared the beginners level