Glass production in Herat still operates on the same lines it has for hundreds of years. A one-room workshop with a single mud-brick furnace.
Like Istalifi ceramics, production involves the making of a natural glaze made of white quartz (mined from riverbeds) and the ash from a desert bush known as Ishkar. This ishkar is piled into a pit and burnt. Most of their Ishkar would be used to make soap, but it would also be sold to glass-blowers and potters for glaze-making. Glass-blowers choose the best Ishkar by tasting it – that which has a ‘sweet taste’ is supposed to be the best!
Today, this Herati glass is still made by hand, although some glassblowers use chemical glazes instead of the Ishkar technique of old. Our maker, Ghulam, uses Ishkar, it is hoped that this living cultural heritage will survive for many centuries to come.