Gold-in-Glass

After nearly all the gold tiles for Matrimandir had been manufactured, and all the disks were up on the structure, the huge workshop behind the Matrimandir, which had produced nearly 2.5 million tiles, became rather quiet. It was filled with vacuum-ovens, ultrasonic cleaning machines, a vacuum-operated electronic silicone mixing machine, and several other pieces of equipment, but hardly any work was going on. 

For the Matrimandir there were still a few important jobs pending, including the big entrance shields, the doors, the flower discs above the four doors, and the four coloured symbols in the centre of the flower disks. The tiles for all these jobs were not standard tiles, but in most cases had to be made to size, one by one, according to the measurements which were given to us by Victor’s steel-works department. At the same time Roger, the architect of Matrimandir, wanted the workshops to disappear and let the atmosphere of the gardens start to dominate the area.
The technology involved in manufacturing the gold tiles is a complex process, which was developed over three years in Germany and finally got patented. Without extensive training and a perfectly planned scheme of what to do, it is impossible to manufacture such tiles. Now we had on one side the concern that if the technology to manufacture the tiles would disappear, then incase of some future necessity there would be no possibility of obtaining such tiles from anywhere else. At the same time we found it a pity to let all the technical knowledge and experience go without creating value out of it for Auroville. It was therefore a logical consequence that we would try to establish a commercial unit with the equipment, using the skilled workers and knowledge involved to carry on this new-born specialised craft.
When we started the gold tile workshop at Matrimandir we had foreseen this situation arising, and had not donated all the highly specialised machinery to Matrimandir. Instead we had just loaned it free of charge. So it was easy to sort out what belonged to whom and pack our bags and go.
A first attempt to create an Auroville unit in the Industrial Zone failed, due to Auroville politics, and so we moved to one of the Pondicherry industrial estates, purchased a shed there, and started our work. During the first years we manufactured mainly the tiles which were still required for completing the Matrimandir, and gave them free of charge to Auroville. But then slowly we took up also commercial orders for the international market. First came a big order for a villa in Ibiza with 2,000 square-metres of living-space which required tiles being made for ceilings, walls and floors. Then followed other orders – for an entrance hall of a hotel in Hyderabad, a Turkish bath of a hotel in Slovakia, and the “ice-room” of a sauna of a hotel in Kazakhstan.
Finally, an Auroville unit also evolved which takes our tiles specially shaped, bent and coloured to make jewellery out of them.
Up to now we have never had the time needed to do proper marketing for our tiles or to develop other products with the technology, which would enable us to run the unit in a commercially viable way. Nevertheless, there is a great potential for the craft, which should be used for Auroville, and finally the unit should develop into one of those Auroville industries which makes Auroville prosperous, productive and special in the commercial world.
To make something splendid out of this venture and to finally settle it in the Auroville Industrial Zone as an Auroville unit is one of the aims which the Varuna team is trying to achieve.

For pictures on the various aspects of GiG, please refer to the website www.gold-in-glass.com