Monday, April 27, 2009


lola turned one year this april.
she is always with me when i work, she has grown to like the sound of the wheel.
she is most peaceful when i am working and of course she then sleeps the whole day.
and once in a while when the clay is too wet or too soft or too hard or when the pots are collapsing on the wheel if i talk to lola she meows at the end of every sentence, we do hv long philosophical conversations most of the time.
as lola is very much part of my workspace and work life, she is here too in this diary.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

T adda show

rakhee kane was asked to curate a teapot show in madras, in a gallery called prakrit arts. i was quite surprised when she asked me to partcipate. ray supported as usual, said it would be a good push. i didnt want it to be such a push that it would make me nervous about performing well. ray said u start making the pots and later we will see. that was a better way of looking at it. i thought i should take it as an excercise to improve my throwing. i never liked teapots before. am a coffee person. but i began liking the idea of teapots when bindu, my musician friend started using one of my earlier teapots while did her morning reyaaz. so i told myself i would want to make teapots which will be used. and i wanted to keep it simple in form and in glazing. but i wanted to create a strong form at the same time. something which has life. i started making the pots in jan. the whole month i was throwing only teapots and i strated to dream about them too! in feb i was away in delhi for work and when i came back i had two weeks to prepare more pots and to finish the firing. i chose 22 pots for final firing. i kept the glazing quite simple. i wanted the raw body to remain. and i love pouring glazes and slip. love the way it creates a pattern.flowing and alive. again i was going to be a to place where i lived for six years with my work. and my first group show. rakhee had put together works of twenty artists. and here are some images of the show.

1 shanti road gallery

my course was over. before i realised. i had about 100 pots with me after i gave away nearly 60 pots as gifts to friends and family. ray liked some of my work and said i should think of selling them, "at least it would bring back what u hv spent, there is no one sitting here giving u money, and they are good pieces, put them together call family and friends dont overprice let them go, u don want to be sitting on ur pots do u?". he was right. there was no sugar daddy. my grandfather wasnt rich. and there was just enough money to eat the basic and pay the course fee and rent. well thats one of the reasons why it took me so many years to get into pottery, everyone said its an expensive profession to be in u need some knind of support, till i realised i am anyway not earning any money out of dance. i wasnt taking any risk, i was used to living with hand to mouth situation!
suresh jayaram , an old friend who taught art history, now ran a gallery in his own house in bangalore. his whole house anyway looks like gallery. he said i could sell my work there.
it all happened in ten days. two days to pack, two days to send, three days to unpack and set up, two days the actual show, one last day to realise all the pots were sold!
my friend and support malavika came from madras and did all the work- starting from arranging the tabels, claening the wooden surface with waste and warnish, arranging the pots, drawing a funny price list (which peopel wanted to take along with the pots so we had to make some 250 copies).
we set it up at 1 shanti road. suresh's house is known for parties and people. when i used to live in blore i was one of the permanent fixtures there, if one was passing by richmond town u could not not go to suresh's house. even if he wasnt there u knew where the house keys would be. and there was always something to eat in his fridge! and if suresh was around then u stayed there for hours, smoking hving ten cups of coffee and gossipping about the art world (well about dancers then, me and suresh found it extremely funny that many dancers believe all the mythological stories so literally, we would even spend considerable time enacting different dancers!)
so the days of the show, saturday and sunday, suresh made a big jug of fruit punch (and peopel added enough and more vodka and rum into it) bought chips and made dips and people partied and saw pots and bought them...
more than the selling (well selling was good it brought back the money i put into firings and also some extra for the course fee) it was a great feeling to go back to blore with my work.
so that was my first show, totally unexpected!

two days with sarah walton

Sarah Walton is a potter who lives and works in Alciston, near Lewes, East Sussex, England.
She has run a pottery there since 1975 using a large oil-fired saltglaze kiln.
She studied Fine Art at Chelsea from 1960-64 and Studio Pottery at Harrow from 1971-73.
Sarah acknowledges a debt to mediaeval pots, the arts of Mesopotamia and South-East Asia, to Neolithic Art, to Western Painting, sculpture, architecture, music, literature, poetry, wit, philosophy and religion, and to innumerable people through the years, especially Weislaw Pilawski and Irene Milburn.
Landscape is a theme in her work. She has walked, drawn and painted it since childhood and this lies behind her evolution of birdbaths which she has made since 1984. Her ceramics are represented in 13 museums in the UK and she has won 5 awards. Her work can be bought at Contemporary Applied Arts and Contemporary Ceramics in London, The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh and The Leach Pottery, St Ives.
sarah walton came to gbp in march 2009. she has come to india before she says who practices yoga and is inspired by j krishnamurthy.
here is what i wrote doen in my notebook during her demonstrating a piece for us and her evening presentation/talk.

In Search of Sensuality

Sarah Walton could be described as a thinker potter: looking at everything carefully with the most critical eyes, very clear of what she wants to create, with a complete dedication to develop a single form.

She is showing us how she makes a functional pot. A lidded jar. But her approach is of making a hand built sculptural piece. She finished making a hand built jar with the lid and kept it in front of her as a model and started working on the wheel. After many years of wheel work Sarah started making hand built bird baths. And when she returned back to the wheel she was trying to evolve her own language of form. As she says, post bird baths the way she looked at a pot changed: a heightened base became an integral part of her work, profile became more and more important, and mostly the approach she used to get the final form changed. She started to work on each functional form as if it were a sculpture. The process, she says, is very slow. We witnessed that: She was ready to make all the alterations. She wouldn’t let a single curve escape; she would want the exact convex shape of the top. The most important was the exploration of the form. She has all the patience in the world, although nervously she calls herself impatient, “this method works for me” she says with a smile.

The quality of clay is so soft in the beginning but not really so at the very end, she says. She wants to retain as much of the softness of the clay till she can. Glaze changes the piece, she says, perhaps that’s why she has very less use of glaze in her own work. In order to retain all the minor details of a pot, she chooses salt glazing to fire her pots. “You have to resist decorating your pots and observe what the kiln does with your pots and also learn to accept what each pot has to offer in itself. Salt kilns teach you restraint” she says.

For Sarah the feel of the work is as important as the look. The sense of touch along with the act of seeing. One could see that the way she approaches the clay. Her thumb constantly shapes the curve of the jar not just to give it a shape but also to internalise the form for herself; while throwing, the wall of the cylinder is raised along with one flowing breath. Most of the work is done by visualising the form, the remaining action is very subtle and the fingers are just the tools. “I like to test the scale to the maximum but even then the most important is the tactile qualities to a pot”, Sarah shares with us. “The softness of clay could help in retaining a sensual quality in the work. The quality of austerity could go hand in hand with tenderness” she adds. To explore this further, Sarah even started working with wood, to create eroded surfaces, for Sarah sees certain poignancy in eroded surfaces.

During the demonstration, there is not enough clay, the lid doesn’t fit, and Sarah is unhappy about it but doesn’t give up. Additional clay is added, alterations made, all she wants is the final form, she would wait to get there. “this is crude, I would take more clay next time, but this could happen to you!” she says looking at the lid, “to appreciate other potters’ work it is necessary to see whether they have fulfilled themselves, whether they have realised what path they want to take.”

Sarah’s pots have taken the path of restraint and sensuality, austerity and tenderness. None of these qualities are looked as opposing one, but shades of colours, with the ability to look within themselves with a critical eye. Later in the day in her presentation, Debi drew our attention to the title of her piece, ‘self portrait’ a large sculptural work with holes in it through which one could see the internal structure of the piece!

raku with rakhee

rakhee kane jadeja joined auroville, an international township near pondicherry, in 2001 and since then she has been creating objects of beauty both utilitarian and artistic in character. she works in wood fired stoneware, high fired ceramics and also in Terracotta, glazed as well as unglazed. She is one of the few studio potters in the area who continues to work in terracotta, creating various patterns, textures and small toys & objects that have a very earthy feel besides their designer value. she has a small self sustaining studio where she makes production pottery as well as her own sculptural works.
rakhee was preparing for her show in delhi, matti the terracota show organised by delhi blue and she wanted to do a raku firing with her pots with terracota. i thought of tagging along as i ahd never seen a raku firing before. ray, adil, chinmayie also joined. so one beautiful dreamy morning i landed up in rakhees house all ready to see the firing.
it was such a fascinating process to watch, just the way pots while are baking in the heat are taken pout and put in sawdust and later in water are forced in a way to cool down, the result is amazing. the glaze breaks in that shock- shock of sudden cold and u peal off the glaze- therefore the name: naked raku.
that day rakhee didnt achieve what she wanted to, but eventually she tried many other ways to retain the redness of the terracota clay and by the time of the show she got what she wanted
so some images of raku with rakhee (i like the sound of this!)

workshops at GBP

the best part of being in gbp is that the world comes to u. there are visitors all the time, some potters some who are interested in pottery- well thats how i ended up there first as a visitor who later switched profession, all the old students say once u r in gbp ur life changes forever. mine has. for the better.
gbp had many potters work for short times but left behind much in terms of quality work. betty woodman, sandy brown, mike dodd, peter biseker, peter thompson who helped ray revive the anagama kiln and the list goes on. we had sarah walton come this year for two days give a demo and a presentation, i will make that into a different entry.
last year, in 2008 we had onya from scotland who came visiting and ended up taking a workshop for us on mould making and slip catsing. ray asked us to bring things from the pondy sunday market to make moulds, a form which cant be thrown on the wheel- he said it could be funny...
i ended up with a egg holder and a toy sword. a whole new dimension to clay work. based on that experienec am working on making a mould for the sculpture i am making. with the help of the mould i will be able to try various kinds of clay. its amazing how many other disciplines can be combined with clay work.
same year rakhee kane from auroville took us a handbuilding workshop. rakhee is like a champion in handbuilding , she mainly works with slabs, its fascinating to watch her roll huge slabs and manipulate them and give them shapes. it suddenly felt like an indepence which one strives for , reaching a comfort zone with the material. then the material and the hands that u work with look so much in synch with one another. we made trial piece to get a feel of the new technique and its come to help now after many months.