The Nagar Glass Factory
A natural warehouse in Yangon, Myanmar
Mountains of handblown water jugs, dessert bowls, wine glasses, fruit bowls, carafes, and more are piled in the jungle setting. Shaded by towering palms and acacias, the translucent blue glass is a breathtaking sight after the rain.
Red blooms, freshly fallen from the Ginko tree catch my attention and a lithe bronze lizard proudly stands on his throne of blue handcrafted glass.
I’m in awe at the quantity of hand made goods thrown into sparkling fragmented piles. My heart sinks each time my eyes fall on a desirable piece and I realize it has broken. Disappointment after disappointment doesn’t stop me from inching slowly forward, devouring every inch with my eyes.
Nagar Glass Factory History
The factory opened in 1948 by a man whose main goal was to create airtight containers to store medicinal herbs. Over time, the factory transformed and became famous for the quality of its work. Hotels and restaurants placed large orders to offer special lighting, glasses, or even chopstick rests that he claimed were so irresistible, diners often pocketed them as souvenirs.
The factory was closed back in 2007 when the price of gas in Myanmar increased to 30 times its previous value. The gas furnace was shut down because buyers were not prepared to pay for the increase in the cost of production for these unique handmade pieces when perfectly symmetrical factory versions were available.
Later, in 2009 a cyclone hit Yangon and destroyed the kilns, machinery, and many of the buildings on the property. The owners created what they call a natural storehouse by leaving the glass on the ground.
It's true that the factory is closed, but the owners are open to visitors. It's sad to see so much work laying smashed or haphazardly thrown to mix with the earth. Visitors are free to dig through the treasures and buy something they like.
The proprietors will clean it up, sand off any sharp edges, and package it up for you. Prices are reasonable considering you are purchasing a one of a kind piece and an experience that I can’t imagine having anywhere else.
Half of the fun of our visit was in listening to the stories of the factory founder’s son. He loves to talk and told interesting stories of unique commission work they picked up over the years.
He was very proud to tell us his brother spent 3 months creating the 5-foot glass eye of this famous reclining Buddha statue. These masterpieces are still visited by thousands of Buddhists and tourists today.
He showed us a champagne glass with a giant stem meant to be pressed into the sand at the beach, as well as a stemless glass designed and made in a set for a woman who was tired of collecting her husband's glasses from all over the house. There were chess sets, and even a nativity scene that he bragged sold so well they are keeping the last set just to show visitors.
Astronaut John Glenn visited the factory and asked to try blowing glass for himself. We were told he was able to make a small bubble in the molten glass although usually, it takes weeks of training to accomplish that feat. Too bad he was too expensive to hire, our guide lamented. He must have been a natural glass blower astronaut.
An Oasis in Yangon
The temperature must have been a few degrees cooler in this shaded oasis off the concrete streets in Yangon. It was a welcome reprieve from the sun. That was a strategic move, offering workers relief from the hot kilns while they were working.
It's an experience I wasn’t expecting on a rainy Saturday morning in Yangon. This was the first time I had heard of the place and I’ve been living here for over a year! It’s a hidden gem if I have ever seen one. I am so glad I went. Next time, I’ll wear proper shoes, and long pants to avoid being breakfast for the mosquitoes.