Arjun Rathi's rural Modern Glass Studio revolutionizes artistry with gold gilding and cane-pulling techniques

Arjun Rathi's rural Modern Glass Studio revolutionizes artistry with gold gilding and cane-pulling techniques

Glass maverick Arjun Rathi’s latest range features luminous marvels created by using new techniques

Arjun Rathi broke the glass ceiling in 2021 with the launch of his Rural Modern Glass Studio, a multidisciplinary design haven that showcases exquisite glass art. Three years later, he continues to stump audiences with his innovative work. And, his latest collection of décor only solidifies his position as one of the reigning champions of glass artistry.

This time around, he focused on three advanced production techniques executed in collaboration with glass mavericks—Grant Garmezzi, Evan Schlauss and Jeremiah Jacobs. “One of the methods we tried for the first time was gold gilding, wherein after the glass piece is produced, polished and cleaned, it receives a 24k gold leafing,” says Rathi.

Cane pulling is another technique that they used to craft their new products. Besides adding texture, the approach allows design nuances to come through effectively. “This is done by stretching molten glass into thin rods or lines, commonly referred to as canes. These are then meticulously incorporated into the artwork, either by rolling them onto the surface or using them to create intricate patterns and colours. The versatility of cane pulling allows for the exploration of diverse visual effects, enriching the artistic expression,” he says.

Rathi, however, enjoys the hot fusing method the most. It involves fusing different parts of the object while they are still hot. In the new collection, he used it to craft delicate models of birds. “It gives you greater precision and control over the final form, enabling the creation of complex and detailed pieces,” he says.

The inventive glass sculptures, drawing inspiration from the imagery of Lord Shiva’s King Cobra, are most unique. This particular series of snakes was inspired by the forms of serpents Garmezzi saw while visiting various temples across Mumbai. Apart from that, there are glass vultures, along with other birds and animals, conventionally viewed with repulsion. “Our aim was to fashion delicate models of these creatures, transforming them into approachable figures,” says the designer. Some of the other works from the collection include figures of Ganpati, the royal elephant, and elephant tusks.

For somebody utterly fascinated by glass, the material has taught him a lot; precision is one of them. “Glass retains all memory; any working error will be seen in the final shape. Clear glass is infinitely recyclable, but once colours are added, it cannot be repurposed. Since mistakes can rarely be corrected during the process, it’s important to have experienced glass blowers. At our studio, broken pieces are melted into glass bricks or accessories to give them a new life,” he says, adding, “On the flip side, errors sometimes bring out new shapes and forms, which has been one of the most exciting aspects of working with the material. We’ve been able to develop several new lighting installations through this process.”

From his recent creations, Rathi is quite proud of the croissant-inspired thick glass modules that diffuse light in captivating ways. For this, he adopted the ancient technique of festooning, learnt from an international artist, to create patterns and textures in lighting components. “The method, with its roots tracing back to early Egyptians, has allowed us to imbue our chandeliers with elegant flair,” he says.

Another memorable piece that he enjoyed working on was an installation inspired by the Gulmohar trees for a banquet in Kolkata. Covering an area of 1,300 sqft, it features frames made from hand-cast brass, alongside over 150 art-glass flowers, hand-blown from colours inspired by the Gulmohar flowers. It took over a year to finish. “The challenges that came in the way of producing each branch with unique moulds, and fabricating them in a modular manner was a great learning process,” says Rathi.

This spirit of enterprise is influenced largely by Antonio Gaudi, one of the first people to have experimented with architecture as a combination of design and craftsmanship while exploring hand-made elements inspired by bio-mimicry and nature. His work propelled Rathi to push the boundaries of exploration with similar fearlessness. Going forward, he hopes that one day, his works will be seen in the same league as glass products from Murano, Italy, or the Czech Republic. He’s surely taking the local road for global growth.


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The New Indian Express