waste bottles at the studio!

Hello I am Ekta. I head WonkyWorks, a small independent GlassArt Studio, having an eclectic collection of Awesomely Handmade Glass Art including upcycled glass products, blown glass, kiln-formed glass, etched and engraved glass.

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Hmmm let’s see how this started. So I had a furnace. I knew how to melt glass in it. All I needed was glass. And then I melted my first bottle! And then I melted more and more and hundreds more.

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So what really happens when you chuck a used glass bottle, be it ketchup or olive oil or beer, absolutely nothing! It will not rot, or decompose, or erode or rust… It will most probably lie there in the landfills, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces, not breaking down into its main ingredient which is silica i.e. sand, which is one of the hardest and most stable minerals on the Earth, for a really long time maybe a few million years, maybe forever.

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This is what got me a bit worked up and to be honest very excited. I looked into glass recycling and upcycling. I researched glass waste and disposal methods. I collected all the possible waste glass from my home – broken, discarded, unused and started crazy experiments with melted glass things. The heat needed to melt my melted upcycled glass pieces is very high, between 650˚C to 800˚C but that’s still about 45% to 53% less than forming a glass bottle from scratch. Not to mention the reduction in consumption of new raw materials which can result in a reduction of energy usage, air pollution, water pollution, water usage and even greenhouse gas emissions. Apart from this we eliminate an entire tier or 2 of the recycling process which includes collection, sorting, processing & break down, converting and finally manufacturing.

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So I started melting more glass, mainly glass bottles but also broken window glass, bangles marbles, laboratory waste, perfume bottles and much much more. I also started experimenting with other techniques of Glass Art which would not include heat like etching and engraving. These techniques are even more sustainable than the melted products. There are no high temperature required and only a sense of good product design and usability.

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One of my earliest challenges were to create products which would have the finesse and design to appeal to main stream customers rather than people who were aware and conscious of Green Design and who specifically searched for sustainable products. The growing awareness of the Green Culture in India has helped to a certain degree, but what I have also noticed is our innate sense to make something out of waste and an appreciation for the same. It also helped that I make many versions of products and test their user-friendliness both myself and with a closed group before letting them go on the shelves. This sometimes takes months and even years… but it is reflected in the design and usage of the products at the customers end.

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Another challenge was the price issue. Most people find it absurd that a 3 rupee almost worthless bottle is being remelted and being sold for 600 rupees. As most of my pieces are made at a independent studio level, my prices could never compete with factory manufactured products. Especially in India, these factories especially the labour-intensive ones tend to be almost slavish. Workers are not paid the minimum wage and there is almost no health and safety precaution, in terms of equipment and information. Ethically working with and disposing of glass and glass related waste does take up a chunk of our studio time and budget! But that is never been an option but a necessity. Also as mentioned above, creating the right product takes time and that also increase expenses!
But I got hooked to glass and even more to upcycling and like someone mentioned in a tweet the other day, the lady got a furnace and never looked back. I have endeavoured to design products which are minimal and user-oriented. Which please the user and bring a little thought of wonkiness, of waste, of sustainability, of design and of the improbable into their thoughts.

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And lastly, Be Green Not Mean :)

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Ekta Doctor
Proprietor at WonkyWorks

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At WonkyWorks we love the glitchy, the skewed, the fuddled, the precarious. In the age of factory-manufactured perfectness, we celebrate the odd fish; the curious and funny, the peculiar and queer. Our war against the mundane and routine has led us to form WonkyWorks, created to fight organised sameness.
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