Throw, turn and fire

Written by Suman Tarafdar | Updated: Sep 30 2007, 07:36am hrs
Clay. Though this most basic of materials permeates the environment around us in more ways than one, we are wont to overlook its rather unique spot in our lives. Though this art form is one of the most technically challenging and time-consuming, not many give it its due position in the creative world. Not even when Vegas casino guy Steve Wynn recently bought a Ming dynasty vase for 5.5 million pounds!

Well the Potters at Palm Court, an exhibition of pottery at Delhis India Habitat Centre by six enthusiastic ceramic potters may not quite reach that level, but as participant Anju Kalsi puts it, the potters wheel attracts all of us, even those who do not take up pottery. We got hooked to it. We is a group of six potters, all trained under the same teacher Debi Prasad. But each of them have their unique styles, interpretations and aesthetic sensibilities.

While most have chosen to make functional items plates, saucers, mugs, cups, teapots, vases, trays, Shweta Mansingkas collection is inspired by the Japanese Raku firing techniques. Sandhya Agarwals earthy collection is inspired by the lotus right down to the colour palate of dull whites, greens, olives and the browns of kichar. But the overall effect of the collection of servettietes is stunning. Anju Kalsi has chosen to replicate the designs on her pots to quilts she has done, quilting being her other passion, to come up with an ensemble in indigos and dull creams.

Pottery isnt an easy occupation, says Kalsi. She explains that it gets no attention from the people, there is hardly any mention in the media, nor do people understand ceramics beyond the mass-produced Khurja variety, where one can get six cups for a hundred rupees.

And it is time-consuming, stress the artists. From the time the shape is thrown and then turned, the process takes more than a day. And then comes the initial firing, usually for five to six hours in a kiln fired to about 1000C. This is followed by a glazing process, which gives the clay its utilitarian values by making it non-porous. Then again it is fired for about seven to eight hours, usually at 1,280C.

It isnt an inexpensive hobby. Setting up the requisite facilities, usually in a studio, could cost up to Rs one to two lakh, says Agarwal. She explains that unlike in the West, there are hardly any public facilities where artists can go and fire their work. However things are improving, say the artists, when they compare it to 10 years ago. Today, in Delhi, there are place like the artists village at Garhi or Delhi Blue Potteries that have some facilities, they chime in unison. But as any artist would justify their creativity, this is their form of worship.