According to historical research, the first evidence of glass production dates back to around 3500 BC in the region of Mesopotamia and Egypt, and according to the Roman chronicler Pliny, as early as 5000 years ago, Phoenician craftsmen in the region of Syria were able to process the material.
In Europe, this craft is mostly associated with Venice and the small island of Murano, where the method of creating the famous Venetian glass is kept an absolute secret. Gradually, a variety of processing techniques were discovered and entered the continent, and in 1980, the use and production reached a real revolution.
Well, today in Plovdiv no one hides the secrets of glassmaking, but even so it remains on the border between craftsmanship and industry. The masters in the city under the hills can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and we found one in his studio in the Kapana district and fell directly into the world of the most fragile and breakable works. It's not a good idea to act like an elephant in a glass shop here, because one wrong step and something that's been made for days can be blown to smithereens.
In fact, for Ilia Yonchev, glassmaking was not the first choice of profession, but it gradually turned from a hobby into his current vocation. He can make all kinds of mirrors, glasses, special ceilings, shower cabins and what not... And not only in Bulgaria - he has even reached New Zealand with his craft. A large part of the objects in Old Plovdiv were renovated by him, and another iconic project of his is the restoration of the Dzhumaya clock.
He has stolen his craft in Turkey and has been an apprentice there for a while, and two years ago he also opened a studio in Kapana, where customers can see some of his work. During the pandemic, he held live workshops for everyone who wants to know how all the magic happens.
The truth is that glassmaking is not an easy craft at all, and handling the material requires a lot of strength, hard work, attention, and even defying gravity - when you install something tens or even hundreds of meters high.
He shares with regret that no one wants to be an apprentice in Plovdiv and at the moment there are only two craftsmen here who can create such exquisite glass objects. This is a very fragile material that requires real patience and concentration during work. Customers often don’t understand this, and Ilia has collected a whole "bag" of jokes with which he can make every visitor laugh. He has completed all kinds of projects and nothing scares him. If you quickly pick up on his humor, you'll have real fun browsing his studio. He is constantly hurrying on tasks and construction sites, but if you really want something to be made of glass you must visit him and listen to his experience.