The world of glass murals

The world of glass murals

When Surekha Manoj was in the ninth grade, she picked up an empty bottle of wine that had been gifted to her father and made a mural on it. This triggered a hobby of making liquor bottle murals and 12 years down the line, she continues to pursue it with even more enthusiasm and creativity.

“The basic concept is to make use of reusable materials instead of throwing them. First, I make the base, which is a mix of ceramic and Fevicol. Then I make the features using the same material followed by which, the colours are added using acrylic paint. For the finish, I give a coat of Fevicol so that it’s washable. It’s quite a messy job,” explains Surekha, who teaches fashion illustration at the Indian Institute of Fashion Technology. M-seal, jute, leather, threads and coconut shells are some of the other materials she uses. 

“When I started, I had a few bottles at home and wanted to do something with them. The first one I made had a flower made of atta and Fevicol. Whoever saw it, started appreciating it. My father encouraged me to exhibit it and seeing everyone’s response, I realised that this was something unique. Now, it’s become a passion that has given me my own identity,” she shares.

What makes this hobby even more feasible is the affordability. Surekha elaborates, “It’s a very low-budget hobby. I hardly pay a rupee for each bottle because I get them from the raddiwaala. A kilo of ceramic costs around Rs 25 and Fevicol costs Rs 10! The only thing is that it takes a lot of hard work and time — I spend an hour or two a day on each bottle, which takes a week to dry fully.”

Flowers no longer catch her fancy. She is focussing on tribal faces now, which have become her speciality. “I do a lot of research on both Indian and African tribes and love working on faces. I’ve made around 500 odd bottles of varying sizes — 16-inches, 12-inches and even six-inch ones. I’ve converted a car shed into my studio and make murals whenever I’m in the mood. I could make one a week or one a month. Usually when I’m bugged, I do this to get a peace of mind,” she notes. 

Another interesting aspect is how she never makes two murals of the same design. “I don’t like repeating designs because I don’t want to give it a market value but retain it as a piece of art. The design depends on the shape of the bottle. For instance, for one set, I could just use dots or stick to lines. Some people don’t like it being too colourful and want a dusky, ancient look while some find the faces scary. That’s why I also make murals that give the bottle a metallic or an antique appearance,” she explains. 

Being a professor of design, her profession and hobby do overlap from time to time. She says, “I’ve done my masters in apparel technology and management. But I’ve always been interested in art which is how this hobby emerged. I do use some of these motifs and concepts when I’m teaching. When you design something, you invariably pick up inspirations and this idea of ornamentation is a constant in my work. Also, I’ve taught some students the basics of making murals and they have made innovative designs on their own.”

Other than exhibiting her bottles, Surekha is fond of gifting them. “Many of my friends give me empty bottles. I don’t drink but I know all the liquor brands because of this. Christmas time is the main gifting season but I do gift them on other special occasions too. I want it to reach more hands but I just hope that nobody copies it. It’s even made it to some Australian homes because my husband stays in Melbourne,” she says.What are the challenges she faces? “It’s a little tough not to let it become repetitive. Another challenge is the climate change — for instance, in winter, the ceramic tends to crack a lot. So I’ve to make sure that the temperature is maintained while I’m working,” she wraps up.

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