Meet the Artisans
Situated just 40 minutes from Agra, home to Taj Mahal, Firozabad shares that rich Mughal heritage and prizes it.
That’s why 20 years ago, the city’s glass workshops were asked to convert from burning charcoal to using clean natural gas.
The government of India asked that any industry near the Taj Mahal would have to adopt cleaner standards to ensure that the Taj stayed beautifully white.
Firozabad, which is 40 km away had to comply as well -- and for the better. Not only would Taj benefit, but so would the hundreds of artisans who worked in the industry and were taking in all that smoke from charcoal furnaces.
Historically, Firozabad had been known for its bangle industry, producing beautiful glass bangles worn by women throughout the country. Over 150,000 artisans produce 50 million bangles everyday in the city. Moreover, Firozabad is said to produce 70 percent of the glass work coming out of small workshops and businesses in India.
Today, the glass is not limited to jewelry. Rather, glassblowing is practiced by artisans to manufacture bowls, vases, boxes, light bulbs -- whatever you fancy.
Still done by hand, seated over a fire, the glass blowing process has changed little over the centuries.
Often, the manufacturers use old pieces of cut glass, scraps, which are cleaned, and mixed with ash, sand, and limestone. The mixture is then heated to 2800 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, it’s hot.
Once melted in the furnace, the glass is inflated and shaped with the help of a blow pipe. It’s placed on a steel sheet where the artisans show their finesse and shape it. The process is called marvering: by rolling it on the steel, the glass forms a cool skin which helps build it its shape. The artisan can then blow air into the pipe creating a bubble.
Once the artisan is happy with the size and shape, the glass is attached to a stainless steel or iron rod, which gives it an opening, necessary for a vase or in this case, candle holders.
Finally, the glass must be dropped into a wooden or metal mold. This is what gives it the fine details on the outside -- its ridges and curves.
When the blowing and shaping process is completed, it is colored; metallic glass paint and acetone is dropped directly into the candle holder and mixed by shaking.
The result? A regal, hand-blown glass candleholder. Just like the Mughals would have liked it.