Your good old whiskey bottle may soon morph into an interesting home accessory. For, glass-artists Rajashri and Sameer Tondawlkar are busy creating an array of home décor and utilitarian objects like lamps and even platters from used (and therefore discarded) liquor bottles. The husband-wife team launched their brand UNME3rs at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in Mumbai earlier this year and they now retail their products online from www.unme3rs.com as well as from Confluence, a home décor store in Mumbai.
After completing a five-year course in the Applied Arts from Sophia College, Mumbai, in 2004, Rajashri went on to study for a diploma in sculpture from the Sir JJ School of Art (2005 - 2009). The two met at the same school, where Sameer did his graduation in interior designing. After graduating in 2009, Rajashri went on to do a one-year course in Conceptual Art from the ESAG, France, while Sameer began doing freelance projects in interior design in Mumbai.
The couple chose to work with recycled glass bottles because not much had been done before in this field. Rajashri, 31, says: “We wanted to create products out of trash and working with glass bottles proved to be very interesting.” They customised machines for glass-cutting and even imported specific glass-cutting tools.
UNME3rs was born out of a year-long research. Says Rajashri: “Since we had already experimented with materials like stone and fibre, understanding the dynamics of glass didn’t take too long.” They began sourcing liquor bottles from fine-dining restaurants and bars in Mumbai.
“We don’t work with beer bottles because they are low-quality glass and can break easily,” adds Sameer, 30, who admits that their line of products is in great demand with young homeowners who want to decorate their homes differently. Their product range includes hanging lamps, platters, vases, large bowls and clocks — all made from recycled bottles.
The process of melting glass (or bottle slumping) to make platters, bowls and wall-clocks is not easy. First the bottles are soaked in water for hours to remove the labels. These are then dried. Next, the bottle is placed on a mould so that the glass takes the desired shape as it melts. The temperature is then raised to 800°C for melting, a process that takes 10 to 12 hours. After the bottle melts and takes the shape of the mould, it is allowed to cool.
The designers say that glass is a versatile medium and the awareness of recycling glass bottles is slowly gaining ground in India. “People are opting for recycled bottles to decorate living room corners, bar tops and lounge areas,” says Rajashri.
Adds Sameer: “One can either put tall candles in long-necked wine bottles or designers can simply melt the bottles and redesign them as trays and platters. Creativity has no limits with glass and no two pieces are likely to be similar.” Besides glass, the couple wants to experiment with other materials like stone to make one-off sculptural pieces.
“We want to do etchings on glass bottles. Apart from that we also want to make glass-partitions for living rooms,” says Rajashri.
If you want to infuse an element of fun into your home décor, you’ll be spoilt for choice as far as glass platters go. “These are the fast moving pieces at our store and people love them because of the fun shapes we give them,” says Rajashri. The platters are priced between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,500.
Then there are eye-catching hanging lamps that make for great gifts. The signature pieces include lamps made from Grey Goose Vodka bottles and wine bottles. She says: “To make hanging lamps from these bottles, at first the bottles are washed and dried naturally. Next, they are cut with special glass-cutting machines, buffed and polished several times to get the desired finish.” A bulb is fitted inside the lamp. These are priced between Rs 900 and Rs 3,000.
Or how about a candle-stand made using a discarded liquor bottle? “While the neck of a bottle is used as a base, the lower half of another bottle is cut and glued to this base with special glue,” she says. The candle-stands are priced upwards of Rs 700.
Wall clocks made from melted whiskey bottles are fast sellers too. The showstopper is a wall-clock (Rs 9,000) made of small and medium-shaped whiskey bottles. You can also take your pick from vases that are created from coloured wine bottles (priced Rs 800 upwards).
Photographs by Gajanan Dudhalkar