February 18, 2022
KUALA LUMPUR – Handcrafting glass into pieces of art is a skilled craft and local glassblower Kamarul Faizy Roslan, 52, has is happy to share his knowledge with anyone who is interested in learning the craft.
The Langkawi-based man is among the handful of local glass crafters specialising in glassblowing. He trained in crystal production at Orrefors Glass in Sweden and Whanganui Regional Community Polytechnic in Whanganui, New Zealand.
With over 30 years of experience in glassmaking, he is regarded as the go-to person for glass handicrafts here.
And, the father of three is happy to be pass on what he knows about this ancient glass crafting technique to the future generations.
“There’s hardly any exposure to this craft here, and to my knowledge, there aren’t any local institutions that offer courses in glassmaking, specifically glass blowing.
“It is a specialised skill where the crafter must be adept in working with flames to craft glass products without shattering them,” said the craftsman from Kuah in Langkawi. He was a recipient of the Malaysian Quality Assurance award from the Tourism Ministry for his glass handicrafts.
The Batu Pahat-born crafter says many youths aren’t interested in learning the skill as they are looking for better job prospects with a higher salary.
“It takes years to master this unique craft. Most people from the younger generation rather learn a skill that allows them to earn quick money than glass making. It requires lots of patience and commitment to understand the elements behind glass art,” said Kamarul, the owner of Crystal Langkawi, known for its glass souvenirs, especially among tourists.
Renowned glass artist Raja Azhar Idris, 70, thinks the government should take the initiative to encourage the younger generation to venture into glass craft.
“Even if youth would like to venture into such artistic craft but there isn’t a centre that allows them to go and learn glass work or pratice whenever they want to. There’s no space for glass art in Malaysia,” he said.
To venture into glass or start a glass art business, one needs to invest in many tools including a diamond cutter, glass breaker, diamond head polisher and a kiln (an insulated oven). And, unfortunately, these items come with a hefty price tag.
Plus, this is a specialised skill and courses in this area are few and far between. Also, the cost to undergo such lessons can go from anywhere between RM500 and RM7,000.
“I have trained many youngsters at my art gallery. They love it but the cost is what sets them back. For example, imported float glass (in red and purple colours) costs about RM12,000 a kg. The cost of a diamond cutter ranges between RM80 and RM2,000. A good quality furnace can cost about RM60,000 to quarter of a million ringgit.
“How can the youth afford to venture in such an expensive business?” explained Raja Azhar who was drawn to the craft because of the “complexity of working with glass”.
“Glass is unlike other mediums. I am always intrigued by this material, and I’m still learning what causes it to crack, curl or transform.
“Every time I bake a glass item in my kiln, I am surprised with the outcome. Many times, the result is something beyond my imagination,” he said.
Glass art dates back to the time of the Roman empire, and it has been used extensively over different eras. This includes stained glass windows to decorate buildings or homes, enamel crafted glass relics and Venetian glass decorated with various glass-forming techniques.
There are many glass art techniques such as blowing, kiln-casting, lampworking and fusing. Raja Azhar explains it is impossible to master the various processes within a short time frame.
“I am still learning new things about glass, even though I’ve been working with this material for 22 years. This is what I like about glass. Each and every item created is one of a kind and that’s what makes it so special,” shared the award-winning modern and contemporary artist.
He thinks glass craft has much potential, and he wants to introduce his specialised skill to more Malaysians. His plan for 2022 is to set up a glass workshop studio on a piece of land that he’s recently acquired in Kuah, Langkawi.
“Langkawi island is the centre of glass art. So I am willing to move out of Kuala Lumpur to set up the workshop there. My objective is to teach this specialised craft to Malaysians, university students and tourists. All I need is funding to kick start my project,” he said.
The United Nations has announced 2022 as the International Year of Glass.
Both Kamarul and Raja Azhar hope that this will give glassmaking more attention as they work to promote the craft here.
“My business took a beating during the pandemic,” says Kamarul. Hopefully, with more emphasis on glassmaking, I can promote glass craft and put Langkawi on the world map for handmade glass craft,” he concludes.