Former lawyer now creates glassy art

Saarus Nirhali wanted to take a break from being a criminal lawyer and stumbled on to stained glass art. Today she's creating Tiffany lamps and murals out of stained glass for a living.

Saarus Nirhali is a girl in love with glass. Butterflies, angels, swans and flowers make up most of her repertoire of original stained glass art. The enterprising 28 year old used to be a criminal lawyer in another life before her move to Bangalore from Mumbai, when she decided to learn something new and take a break.

Saarus Nirhali, founder of Glasshopper. Pic: Reshmi Chakraborty.

The ‘something new’ turned out to be stained glass, something Saarus had always been fascinated by especially after noticing stained glass window panels in churches abroad as a child.

She found 92-year-old, Vinayak Patel, a veteran stained glass artist who taught several students over the years in Bangalore. Today, Saarus’s workshop is on Patel’s sprawling terrace in Indiranagar, with nooks and crannies full of pieces of work Patel has done over the years and that she has added on to. Saarus works with Murli, who has been Patel’s assistant for years and now assists her with her brand, Glasshopper.

It isn’t easy work. Saarus works with glass that is pre-textured and pre-coloured and comes from US. It is then cut according to the design and fused together with lead. The edges are wrapped with copper foil. “I’m good at foiling and cutting,” says Saarus, who also readily admits that she is not really into art or design. She sources her ideas from everywhere and sometimes asks artist friends to sketch a design for her if required. In fact, her brand Glasshopper’s logo is a grasshopper in stained glass and Saarus credits a friend with it.

“Every piece at Glasshopper is hand cut and handmade,” she says. Nirhali retails from Purple Turtle and Sunshine Garden Boutique in Indiranagar, apart from her own terrace studio. Her work is not limited to only the larger stained glass pieces like panels, tiffany lamps or murals; but also to smaller pieces like sun catchers, wind chimes, candle holders among others. “I wanted it to be affordable to everyone,” she says, adding that she hadn’t seen smaller pieces in stained glass earlier. While the smaller pieces take her half a day to make, bigger pieces like Tiffany lamps could take up to three weeks.

Murli fusing the glass at Glasshopper. Pic: Reshmi Chakraborty.

Saarus has no plans to get back to practising law and says her “craving” of being creative is being thoroughly fulfilled. She wants Glasshopper to become bigger as a brand and plans to teach the art to children from underprivileged background. In the meantime, if you wish to learn stained glass, you can come to her. Saarus takes five-day classes in her Indiranagar studio where she teaches students the basics of stained glass art. “They do five projects in five days and make two sun catchers, one mirror box and a small lampshade among other things. I give them all the materials and tools which they can take back with them after finish the course.”

Saarus says that it gives her the greatest pleasure to see an idea or thought converted into a stained glass artwork. She mentions a client who wished to have an old childhood photograph of his village home turned into a wall panel. “It felt great to be able to recreate a memory” she says.

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