American Artist Grant Garmezy’s Magic of Glassblowing
American Artist Grant Garmezy’s Magic of Glassblowing

From fire to form, he takes us through one of the most exciting, adrenaline-pumping crafts out there.

Pulling up at the Rural Modern Glass Studio, in Chembur, Mumbai—ensconced in an old factory straight out of a period drama—I was greeted by Arjun Rathi, a seasoned architect and lighting designer. Rathi is also the co-founder of the studio that stands tall as a pioneer in the art-glass realm of design. He has hosted various glass artists at his studio including Jeremiah Jacobs, Evan Schauss and Matthew Piepenbrok. It first started with ‘Tasbeeh’, an orange glass installation with an amber glow that sucks you right in and is testimony of Rathi’s own brilliance as a designer. But that’s not what I was there for.  



Within the studio, a tall man in a white cotton shirt and denim was working his magic around a giant furnace. Donning protective glasses, he wielded a rod bearing a searing pound of glass, effortlessly rolling it in powder before returning it to the flame, as fluidly as tossing veggies in a pan. This was Grant Garmezy, a world-renowned American contemporary glass artist, who was set to demonstrate his work to a select few.  

Creating a glass sculpture demands skill, precision, and creativity —qualities Garmezy has honed over his 14-year-long career. A collection of his finest work was on display in an adjacent room at the studio—a dimly lit space housing a menagerie of wonders, from snakes and a vulture to skulls, all adorned with intricate gold gilding. Notable among them was a black snake embellished with delicate flower details, a touch contributed by Garmezy’s wife, Erin. Among his standout pieces was also a blue Ganesha idol created in collaboration with artist Evan Schauss. The unmissable glass sculpture was suspended from a wooden plank with three daggers, each meticulously crafted and embellished with gold details, and inspired by Garmezy’s visit to a museum in Mumbai, igniting a desire to recreate 16th-century relics.Glass blowing, an ancient art form, finds new life in the hands of craftsmen like Garmezy who had already finished sculpting a glass blown fish while we were gathering around him. Heat, precision, and creativity intertwine as molten glass morphs under his skilled touch. Reflecting on his journey, Garmezy shared, “I was always interested in ceramics and pursued it during my graduation. Next to the ceramic studio, there was a glass studio, and all that noise and action drew me towards this art.” 


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The fish we were witnessing in real time underwent over an hour of intense work and heat before it began to take shape. As Garmezy added the final touches—scales, eyes, and detailed fins—we watched in awe. The fish was then placed in another furnace to bake. Amidst this, Garmezy, who was in India for the first time, remarked, “We don't speak the same language, but I feel glass in itself is a universal language." Following this captivating session, we adjourned for lunch, where I had the pleasure of engaging Garmezy and Rathi in a few questions. 


What draws you to a particular subject, and how do you translate them into beautiful pieces of art? 
Grant Garmezy: A majority of the glass exploration that we do at the studio is exploring techniques, patterns, colours, technical shapes, and what we use for lighting. Experimenting with glass with this type of sculptural art was something very new for us. I think every piece we've made [here] is something that's never been made before. For example, the glass daggers—this is the first time an artist has sculpted glass weapons over here, in Asia. And the tusk looked so completely realistic. It was exciting to see how glass as a magical material can allow things to be so realistic, and so abstract, all at the same time. 

Arjun Rathi: The ethos of the Rural Modern Glass Studio is taking inspiration from rural India; from its culture, colours, festivals, architecture, and everyday objects to use as inspiration to create modern objects. A lot of the art was created by the visiting artists, Grant Garmezy, Jeremiah Jacobs, Evan Schauss and Gates Stevens. The studio was something that we founded as an extension to our lighting studio, three years ago. It took inspiration from Indian heritage, objects and culture to create a whole collection of works. All these artists who've come from abroad are great at what they do in sculpting glass. At Arjun Rathi Design, we mainly do customised bespoke lighting and produce our glass, instead of importing it. 


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What’s exciting about glassblowing?  
GG: I think glassblowing is something very meditative. It's very strong as an art form where when you're working with that material, you're 100% focused on that piece of lava; what you're trying to shape and mould; creating the technical shape. The colours that you use are all melted glass. You can’t use any dyes. So, every colour is made with a mineral. And when you encase it in glass, the colours are extremely vibrant, something very unique only to glass as a material. I think emotionally, it's very exciting to see a piece slowly take shape, starting from a blob and then growing into these various details and forms that we try and mould it into. 


The collaborative Ganesha piece with Evan Schauss is unique. How does your creative process differ when working with another artist compared to working solo? 
GG: The Ganesha, which was sculpted with Evan Schauss, was something which has never been done in the glass art industry before. Nobody's ever sculpted a glass Ganesh to this level of detail and precision. The artwork took almost 14 hours to finish with a team of six glass blowers working with the artists from early morning to late in the night. It was just something really exciting and mesmerising as every part was made differently and then joined together to create a beautiful Ganesh idol. And post the creation of the idol, there are a lot of gold working techniques that are going to be done on it. We are going to be gilding a lot of 24-karat gold and copper leafing all over the idol to add character to the lovely blue glass that was used to create it. 


Glass art is often seen as fragile and delicate. Do you see this as a limitation or an opportunity?  
GG: I think one very exciting aspect of glass as a material is flameworking. You can mix that solidarity of glass blowing with the fragility of beautiful flamework elements which can be added to the piece. That's something we've experimented with in all our works, including the king cobras which Grant created with Erin, and one of the artists created these beautiful framework flowers on it. Objects and animals are generally considered with a little bit of a sense of fear. The king cobra or a vulture, are the sort of animals that are not generally admired for their beauty. To make them look beautiful, we added a lot of gold gilding and fragile bits of glass and pieces to add character and make them more approachable. 


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How do you see India adopting this art? 
GG: There's great scope for ethnic/indigenously inspired art in India overall. We're already seeing this with a lot of contemporary artists who're exploring that through sculpture of crafts, exploration in painting and various other mediums that have been prevalent. I think to have Indian heritage crafted in glass for the first time in the country is going to be extremely exciting to showcase and see how people react to it. I think it'll be very well accepted. More so it'll be extremely unique because the works that have been done are unique to the medium and cannot be recreated or replicated in other mediums. I feel the acceptance of glass art is going to be a strongly growing market in the coming years. 


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