Crafting a wave of glass

Crafting a wave of glass
Anjali Srinivasan's glass creations vary from walls to large-scale art installations; (above) her installation for Swarovski, which responds to human touch

A Winner of the Swarovski Designers of the Future Award, Dubai-based designer Anjali Srinivasan's works are a glass act.

By Sujata Assomull

Published: Thu 7 Jul 2016, 9:13 PM

Last updated: Mon 18 Jul 2016, 7:15 PM

The design calendar has become one of the busiest and most dynamic calendars of any creative industry, so much so that it now matches that of the art industry. Where there is an important art show, you know there will be a design show, usually of the same stature. Like this year's recently concluded Art Basel - one of the most prestigious events of the art calendar - which held the stage with Design Miami, and which, like Art Basel, takes place in both Miami and Basel.
This year's edition of Design Miami at Basel was a very special one for the "Made in Dubai" brand. Every year, Design Miami at Basel unveils three installations created by the winners of the Swarovski Designers of the Future Award and, this year, Dubai-based Anjali Srinivasan was among the three. Quite an accomplishment, considering previous winners included names like Britain's Established and Sons.
Thirty eight-year-old Anjali is used to this, though, with a list of accolades including the Chirrona Scholarship from the Division of Fine Arts and the International Project Grant from the American Association for University Women Education Foundation. Born in Chennai, the designer's medium is glass and, though Dubai is her home now, she is a self-confessed nomad. Having grown up as the daughter of a navy personnel, she is used to moving out and starting all over again. She studied at the National Institute of Fashion Design in Delhi and at various schools in New York. She also went to the Rhode School of Design and has done residencies in Sydney and Switzerland's Fribourg. She moved to Dubai about three years ago and set up her studio ChoChoMa (named after her grandmother, the woman who inspired her to be an artist) in Al Quoz. She has since taken part in Dubai Design Week and believes that Dubai is really forging itself into a city of design. Incidentally, it was at Dubai Design Week that Swarovski discovered the glass artist (the panel for Designers of The Future include Nadja Swarovski and Design Miami's Rodman Primack). "It's all new here... there are no rules. No set gallery curators dictating the industry. There is opportunity and there is interest. It is so refreshing," she says.
Her love of glass started when she was learning how to work with the medium in her fashion accessory design course, back in the late 90s. Having felt cheated by the course's limited scope, the fiesty artist decided to take matters into her own hands and went to Firozabad - also known as the city of bangles - to learn about its heritage of glassworks. From glass, Anjali moved to working with recycled glass. Her installation for Swarovski, "Unda", is inspired by the beauty and impact of the human gesture. The rolling wave surface, made up of glass elements developed by Anjali and Swarovski Touch Crystal with new touch-sensitive technology, responds to human touch with glowing illuminations. The crystal wave measures 1.6m in width and 6m in length. The beginning of the mesh structure includes a puzzle of 3,000 Swarovski crystals and 5,000 glass pieces blown and produced in ChoChoMa's studio in Dubai. The crest consists of 1,500 Touch Crystals containing LED technology, which activates when touched, resulting in a stunning gradient effect of earthy colours.
Anjali went to the home of Swarovski, Austria's Wattens, in December, to learn more about their products and processes. "I kept asking questions that couldn't be answered, of course, since so much of the technology needs to be kept in-house," she says. Still, she found the whole experience inspirational. "To think one person moved from Bohemia to Wattens because of electricity. And he created a fashion and design house that is still run by the family."
Legacy and story is an important part of every project that Anjali takes on. She ensures that the workers of Firozabad see either the finished project or pictures. And she hopes that the piece shown at Design Miami in Basel is shown here, explaining. "It is important for a piece to be shown in the place that it comes from." However, for now, Swarovski has no plan to showcase Anjali's winning creation in Dubai.
The pieces that Anjali produces vary from walls to large-scale installations, and with glass being melted at 1,200ºC before being pliable - this a job for a woman who can stand the heat. During her time in Dubai, she has also worked on a city-wide recycling centre initiative of the Dubai Municipality. A designer who was brought-up in India, studied in America, worked with Austria-based Swarovski, Anjali, in many ways, sums up the melting pot that Dubai is. And her creations, that look back to the craft of glass - yet forward to today's need of upcycling - is very global in its outlook.
Though she is not sure how long Dubai will be her home (she would love to go back to teaching), she is very much a poster-child for how the place is becoming a city of choice for designers from all around the world.

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