Joy Menachery recycles glass for architectural applications and into artefacts

Obsession. There is no other word to describe Joy Menachery's ‘emotion' for making glass . He calls his brand of handmade glass ‘Hard Liquid'.

Joy at Hard Liquid fashions glass out of glass. His pieces have a fluidity that justifies the name, some of them look like they were frozen ‘mid-flow'. Bottles of all hues and shapes inspire Joy. His works are primarily used for ‘architectural applications', which means he works with architects and interior designers.

Time permitting he fashions beauty out of waste and if the requirement is big (dimensionally) it is only then that he buys glass.

Fabricating the furnace

It all started with him fabricating a furnace. Simple! Not as simple as it sounds. It took him 12 years to get the furnace right. He wanted a one foot by one foot 2 kilowatt electric furnace that would work on a single phase (of electricity); reaches 850 – 1000 degrees centigrade and the glass that he intended to make or rather mould shouldn't break either.

Tall order it appeared to be, for “people were willing to fabricate the furnace but there were no guarantees about uniform heating. If heating is not uniform, glass will break,” says Joy. After his already depleting bank account was lesser by Rs. 6 lakh he had his furnace. He now works on a three phase, 12 kilowatt furnace. He even fabricates small furnaces for those who want to use it for hand making glass. Competition isn't it? “Technology is not meant to be locked up. It should be available for people to use.”

He has bitter-sweet memories of the early times. Running out of money and not wanting to ask his father, of the desperation of not being able to show what he had in mind. Of what his then newly-married wife would have thought about him. “She went home and told her folks ‘something's amiss with my husband! He wants to BEND glass,” he recalls laughing. There was no way he was going to get a loan for ‘this'. “If I was making interlocking tiles or recycling plastic I would have got a loan easily. But not for this, because I had nothing to show as a sample.”

His love affair with glass began when he was very young. Joy is trained in printing technology; he worked as a creative consultant for a resort, he has tried his hand at eco-farming…he has even made reinforced bricks made of mud (‘not clay'). Now almost 18 years after he embarked on the quest for the perfect furnace, he is content (restless in parts) about the place where he is at now.

All the talk about ‘THE' furnace arouses curiosity. Joy takes us to his studio/workshop adjacent to his house in Eroor. There ‘she' sits, the furnace occupying pride of place at the centre of the workshop. Joy explains how it works. There are freshly ‘moulded' glass ‘bubbles' waiting to be taken out and ‘polished'. Moulds, by the way, are made of ceramic. Then there is the grinding machine which uses wet process so that there is no dust and therefore no air pollution. The grinding machine too is recycled from a second hand lathe machine.

Making glass is not as easy as it sounds. Since Joy's works have more to do with fusing pieces of glass, the compatibility of glass to be fused is important.

His products are available in some stores in the city. Work on his signature store on the first floor of his house is on.

Joy is very conscientious when it comes to the environment and pollution in particular. He is proud to say that his unit is non-polluting. “My neighbours had no clue about what I was doing here. They were surprised when they were told about my glass making. No noise, no emissions…nothing at all.”

Branding is something Joy has not ventured into, for the time being. Hard Liquid has exclusivity thrust upon it, it stays a closely guarded secret. In fact some people go as far to say that some of the things that they own have been ‘imported'. “That puts paid to any recognition or offers that might come my way,” he says with a twinge of regret. Joy does, however, participate in exhibitions and trade fairs across the country.

Raw material

Raw material is not a problem. He gets it from scrap dealers or from shops with glass pieces that they cannot use. Sometimes he gets them free, generally he pays for them. Given the unconventional nature of work sales tax department officials and his chartered accountant have been equally flummoxed. “I sometimes pay Rs.1 or 75 paise for a bottle, which after I am done with will cost anywhere upwards of Rs. 200. They couldn't understand the ‘economics' of the whole thing…but then that is the economics of handmade glass or rather recycling glass.” It is value addition that costs money. Joy says he doesn't price his products too high because there is no point pricing it prohibitively. “People should be able to afford my work.”