CHENNAI: Growing up, we’ve been conditioned to handle glass carefully and not go anywhere near broken pieces. Yet, that did not deter Radhika Krish from creating art using this malleable material. She upcycles glass bottles to make functional yet quirky glass artworks like accessories, wind chimes, crockery, lamps, souvenirs, incense holder, magnets, pocket vase, wall hangings and more.
A full-time professional with a pharmaceutical company in the US, Radhika wanted to pursue a part-time degree in Fine Arts from Ohio State University in 2008. “Painting, charcoal artwork and 2D designing were part of my curriculum. But, that did not interest me. One day, I noticed the glass blowing facility on our campus. I could see people melting glass, blowing bubbles...effortlessly.
It looked dangerous yet exciting. What started as one class a week developed into a serious business that I even quit my job and specialised in this form,” reminisces Radhika, who shifted base to Chennai in 2016 and set up Goli Soda Glass Studio at Palavakkam in 2017. The studio is a one-of-a-kind space in the city, which aims to bring enthusiasts together to learn the art of creating with glass.
From glass bottles collected at the beach clean-up to sheet glasses thrown away at construction sites, she gives new life to what would otherwise end up in a landfill. Contrary to popular belief, procuring glass and other raw materials had not been easy. “There was no glass studio when I moved here, and procuring raw materials for this artwork was challenging.
I had to procure glass from Firozabad, Agra, New Delhi... it was a cumbersome process. We also needed various tools such as kilns, burners and torches. This is the reason I insist on people dropping by to learn the art as it cannot be taught online and needs constant monitoring to ensure safety.
Our studio is designed keeping in mind the health and safety concerns that come along with working with glass. Kids as young as 10 years can attend these classes without fear,” says Radhika, who plans to move her studio to her house in Akkarai. She offers a wide variety of workshops from simple DIY to complex forms of glassmaking such as bottle cutting, mosaic art, lampworking and glass fusing.
Among her latest is a lockdown project called Boulevards of Broken Dreams. She channelled her sheer frustration into creativity by recycling broken glasses and also educating people on how glass can be a great medium to toy around with. “I had so many discarded bottles piled up and since I couldn’t travel to my studio due to the lockdown, I didn’t know what to do with the bottles.
I went into a destructive mode and started breaking the glass into pieces. I segregated the shards by size, colour, and make of the bottles. When I finally got a chance to go to my studio, I started fusing them and made different shapes out of them. Some were functional and some purely decorative. I loved how the shards created texture, which made the work tactile and the light that bounced off the piece created a prismatic effect. The series tested my patience and perseverance,” shares Radhika.
Her creativity does not end here as she fuses it with festive spirits too. With Karthigai Deepam in a week, Radhika has introduced kannadi kuthuvelakku (glass lamp) made from borosilicate glass, which can withstand high heat. Pour oil, put a wick, light up, and watch the beautiful flame flicker against the transparent lamp.
The warm glow against the hand-sculpted glass peacock perched atop is a visual delight. In the long run, Radhika wants to change the perspective about glass among kids and adults. “Cuts, abrasions, burns...the making process may be thought of as risky initially but we take all precautions so people enjoy it without fear. Our studio is well-ventilated, goggles are worn for eye protection while torching the glass to melt it, and gloves are mandatory.
Glasswork requires utmost concentration and hand-eye coordination. It’s the science of glass that most people fail to understand. It’s a versatile medium to work with and the beauty of it reflects in the end product,” she points out. Her glassworks can be delivered across the country.
For details, visit Instagram page: Goli Soda Glass Studio, or call: 9566105313