Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Before You Center That clay

I am a potter
This statement is meant more for me than for anyone else reading it.
I haven't potted in a long time now, and hence the need to remind myself what I need to get back to.

I have a wheel, kept right outside my studio,
on a little terrace with plants all around and a precious blue hammock.
An acquisition from the Gokarna trip. 
Its newer than the wheel and yet has been used much more.

So what I'm going to post today is to inspire myself to get back to what I love,
and perhaps inspire others in the process

The journey ended or rather started with me arriving unannounced at Mini and Mary's beautiful home in Andretta. I had met them a week before in Delhi and it had worked out just as had been planned. I was packed and ready to move in to learn pottery! The thought had suddenly come to me as I was looking to study further and had been accepted in couple universities in the UK. But I believe this one compulsive step changed the course of my life in an instant.
The mosaic on the outside said, come hither (well not physically). And I felt at home instantly. After a lunch of daal chawal and dumping my luggage in a small small room, with a paddy field right outside the one window, I bid farewell to dad and uncle. The quest had really gotten me far this time.
Spent the night before in Pragpur, India's first heritage village. And it made me see what the coexistence of choices could make a town to look like. 
On one hand there were quaint little houses made of mud bricks and thatched roofs, which I later saw in abundance in Andretta; while on the other were gaudily painted palatial look alikes downsized of course to fit into crummiest of places. 
You can't really force choices onto people. Neither can you make Pragpur look like Prague. But then what must one do to ensure that it does indeed look like what it should? India's first heritage village, I'm not too sold!

Coming back to Andretta, at the pottery, met two very good potters. Milap, a humble sharer and Jugal, the effervescent Experimenter. And under the guided hands of Mini, I touched the first lump of clay on a wheel! 
 Which of course came after kneading and prepping the clay a dozen times to ensure no bubbles remained in there. One thing is for certain, I would leave this place with toned arms! 
First lot was bloody frustrating. Kicking the wheel, along with attempting to center was not working at all. I always thought I was good at centering things and finding that balance. But none of it was showing. First attempts at visually centering the clay didn't pay off. 
But then after a magical lunch, I just sat there, feeling it in my hands. Closed my eyes and felt an effortless centering. An innate oneness with the self. I was close and it was just the first day! I was elated!
Its a little surprising to see that something so little, almost non-consequential can actually assert itself on you and mold your further actions. Pottery is a craft that tests you and tests you some more till you decide to take control and become one with yourself and the clay. Its much like raising a child perhaps, where you are partly responsible for all that you put in and yet stand helpless as the child is bound to have a mind of its own. As Sardar Gurcharan very aptly put it,

"Center your mind
Before you center your clay"

First set of cylinders that I ever pulled

And the first batch of cups!

And the final first fired batch of beer mugs on request, inspired from Guinness,
delivered to a very happy home indeed


  1. Very nice thoughts indeed. good insights.

  2. Thanks joiboi! Need to get back on the wheel now, will make a set of beer mugs for you too!! :)

  3. Sonal! The words and the works both equally inspirational! I need to finish glazing the pieces lying on the rack now!

  4. Thanks! Am glad its helpful in some way... I'm gonna go out on a limb now and ask this, Mitali is that you? Pardon me if I'm wrong please. But either ways please do share some pottery work with me. Slab / wheel or anything else

  5. Yup, its me! :) I wish I could call myself a potter. Well not yet anyways. Just took a class but am in love with it. It is most satisfying... *sigh*

  6. I hear ya! i too am trying to set up a kiln at home now, got a wheel already but havent been able to do much. but am hopeful! soon! :)
    in the interim, all the best! I'm sure you will find what you seek! :)