Through the glass, brightly

Nashville-born Garmezy accidentally ventured into glass in art school. He was enrolled in jewellery making when he strayed past a glass-making studio and got hooked.
Last Updated : 06 July 2024, 20:35 IST

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Vaibhav Industrial Estate, Govandi, in the rather grimy area of Chembur, is not quite the usual jaunt of Mumbai’s swish set. Yet, amid this industrial locale were created a few spectacular blown glass treasures, courtesy of Virginia-based Grant Garmezy who was in India recently to conduct workshops.

Garmezy, whose works retail all around the world, is a veteran of the craft. He, along with his wife Erin, also a glass artist — though with a very different style, collaborated with one of India’s leading lighting designers, Arjun Rathi, at his studio. Mumbai-based Rathi has in recent years presented innovative glass art of his own as well. 

“I found that interior design was becoming very muted, and in India, we have such a passion for colour, and I felt there is no other medium to show colour better than glass,” says Rathi. “We are seeing the birth of the Indian glass movement. This is the first art glass studio in the country.” While India has had a history of glass making, it has largely been functional rather than sculptural. So, to see a chunk of glass transform and mutate over a few hours into a beautiful blue-green carp was enchanting. 

Nashville-born Garmezy accidentally ventured into glass in art school. He was enrolled in jewellery making when he strayed past a glass-making studio and got hooked. He has always been drawn to the sculptural qualities of the molten material, pointing out that glass cannot be sculpted by hand — artists must use special tools, timing, and gravity to shape the constantly moving molten material. At the heart of Garmezy’s craft lies the dynamic process of hot sculpting, an intricate technique where molten glass is meticulously manipulated by hand, harnessing the forces of heat, timing, and gravity. Each masterpiece is a testament to Garmezy’s unparalleled mastery of his craft. Growing up predominantly in rural Tennessee, nature, especially animals, fascinated him. Today he is best known for his creations of animal heads — deer, bear, crocs, carps… though his repertoire includes full animal figures too, especially strikingly real-looking snakes and turtles! Equally popular is his array of flying and marine representations — including entire tableaux of undersea life.  

“Glass is actually a contemporary art form,” stresses Garmezy. “While glass has been around a long time, as an art movement, it’s fairly new compared to other mediums. The American art movement started in the 1950s and 1960s. I feel like we are at that point here in India. This could be the start of a whole new art movement which is very exciting. It’s like planting a seed that could blossom into a big tree.”

At a time when mediums in art are exploding, Garmezy’s reply to why people should buy glass is simple. “They should buy glass because they love it. How it’s made, who it’s from, what it is doing to the space. There is no other material in the world like glass. To have it as an art form, that’s insane.” As for someone aspiring to learn, Garmezy’s top advice is — be patient. “It’s one of the toughest mediums in the world to learn; persistence is key,” he says. Unlike in the US, and many other nations, glass is rarely taught in Indian universities, either as technology or art. “Universities are yet to see value in glass art.” He admits that getting access to a furnace is hard, and that is why glass art remains inaccessible. Overheads include propane and gas bills, and access to high-quality glass. He suggests starting small, possibly renting time at a studio. Of course, not only is it strenuous, it also requires a team working in unison — a single mistake by anyone implies a fresh start!

Grant’s creations here have Indian touches to them — elephant heads, gilded snakes, huge river carp, etc. “As an artist, it’s all about the story you want to tell. I travel around the world, and while creating, like to look at the history and culture of the area; if there is any glass history, who the other artists are and how we can collaborate,” he says.

If the pieces that he has created while in India are any indication, there is little doubt that Grant has unleashed a genie or at the least a new art medium that could do very well in the long run.

Published 06 July 2024, 20:35 IST

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