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Creative ideas in glass

Irregular lumps of glass assume myriad shapes in the deft hands of Y.P. Singh, whose `Lucky Ganesh' is one among the many popular figures created from his imagination...

FOR Y.P. SINGH, creativity doesn't happen in the comforts of an air-conditioned room. His imagination takes shape in a small and dark room that very much befits Miltonic description of the inferno. Just meters away from the burner that emits 1400 degree of heat, he watches small and irregular lumps of glass melting and slowly taking shape. Glass isn't merely a material that carries the mould in different shapes and sizes. "It's like my own skin. I feel the curves and its freckles as it shapes up in that heat," he says, as he unwinds in his office room upstairs. As Singh rolls a small glass paperweight, we notice an elegant glass bell above his head that gently quivers in the breeze, it's mild cling-clang sound adds serenity to the silence in the room.

In Ferozabed, Singh's home district in UP, glass has been a big industry for a long time. Apart from the obvious economic and business opportunities it brought to them, glass has been an inextricable part of their lives. Many in the surrounding villages knew about the nuances of moulding glass even before they grew up. "The outsiders wonder how we could sit before the fire for a long time. But, hardly anyone knows that most of us hold the glass, even before we catch hold of playthings," says Singh.

The shapes glass was turned into were the routine ones: tumblers, scientific equipments, and flasks. For Singh though, it didn't contain the challenge he was looking for, as a young man. His search took him to a totally different idea: making glass figures. Apart from the challenges, it had made business sense to him, as many in the trade had to compete hard to sell the regular glass products.

He also noticed a rising demand for glass figures in South India. His widespread interest and appreciation of arts made him set up his own company, The Will Products, in Chennai. His repertoire also widened to include shapes of gods, for which he slowly gained popularity. More than anyone, Ganesha appealed to his imagination. "I have Ganeshas of virtually any posture. Dancing, lotus, and baby Ganesh. I have even made my own Ganesha cricket team, in which all the 22 players are in action with their trunks," Singh proudly mentions.

Lucky Ganesha, Singh's most famous product, is a hit even with people from abroad. He believes the shape, more than anything, fascinates most of them. "They consider it a cute little thing to decorate their cupboards. But, he is a symbol of luck for our local customers," Singh says. He thinks making the figure of the elephant god is much easier than the others like Shiva or Vishnu.

Many of the figures are small, with every minute detail made like stone carvings. These aren't replicated from the designs, but are made straight from Singh's mind. "It would take just 10 minutes for me to make the Lucky Ganesh. The time taken to make each piece however depends on the details that needs to be incorporated in it," he says.

The endeavour has also been leading Singh to many new areas like Vasthu. People around the country have been giving orders to make products correcting imperfections in building constructions. He has been consulting many books and materials to learn about corrective procedures and the kind of products required for it. The bell gently ringing above his head is the result of such learning.

Catering for an international cliental also means Singh has to keep learning to make new figures. His Buddha's are famous in Sri Lanka as his Ganeshas.

He finds little difference between the laughing Buddha in China and Gubera, the god of money. "Thanks to the learning, today the range and variety of figures we have can't be matched with anyone in the country. Our strength lies in our research. So long as it exists, our repertoire would continue to grow," he says reassuringly.

Learning also goes the other way, as many show interest in acquiring his techniques. Especially, women from the upper middle class families, who're looking for a hobby. Oozing in front of a blazing burner could hardly be described as one, but their enthusiasm for craft amazes Singh: "The only problem here is the space. So, it is impossible to accommodate more people. We've always encouraged those who wanted to learn the process from us," he says.

He particularly likes transparency of glass, something he would like to see in others.


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