Potternama- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

In a world of readily available factory-manufactured products, the charm of pottery is that it cannot be replicated. The little imperfections, which are created because they are handmade, gives each piece a unique property; all potters, who participated at The Delhi Blue Art Pottery Trust’s just concluded annual studio pottery festival, agree. From planters, vases, and home decoration to tableware and sculptural pieces, the Ceramics Fest Delhi 2023, organised at the Triveni Kala Sangam, features products by 75 studio artists, who came from across the country to showcase their art.

In 1952, legendary ceramist Padma Shri Sardar Gurcharan Singh started Delhi Blue Pottery, a ‘school’ of studio pottery; it was so named after the famous ‘Delhi blue’ glaze he admired.  Anuradha Ravindranath, trustee at Delhi Blue Art Pottery Trust, says: “Singh was influenced by the blue tiles he saw on the monuments in Delhi and decided to research the blue glaze, which he could then use on tableware that he had planned to make at his studio.”

A Delhi potter Megha Rawat, with a colourful yet minimalistic tableware collection on display, called Singh the “father of pottery in India”. Of her 13-year-long journey, Rawat says she “can never get bored or tired of creating utility materials out of just clay”.  

Another artist, Rashmi Sharda, who has been making ceramic tableware for the past eight years, points to the changing aesthetics in ceramics for home décor in Delhi and Gurugram. “It started with Delhi blue, and only white ceramic tableware with golden rims. Now, people are more into pastels and mix and match,” she says. Her collection is a blend of all three eras. While the mugs are a mix of white and pastels, the jugs are in the famous Delhi deep blue shade; the ceramic plates are in a combination of mint green and muted brown. While Sharda is an alumna of Delhi Blue Art Pottery, Rawat has learnt the craft at Andretta Pottery, run by Singh’s son Mansimran Singh.

Delhi Blue Art Pottery is “the first studio that was made accessible to anyone wanting to learn pottery in Delhi”, says Ravindranath. Over the years, several artists and former students have gone on to create their respective brands across the country.

A homecoming Kolkata artist Sudipta Saha, who is attending the fest for the 11th time, is also one of them. His stall features different sizes of vases in pastels, utility plates and cane baskets. However, it is his ‘hanging plate’, inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting, ‘The Starry Night’, that gets our attention. “It took me two years to figure out the combinations of getting pitch-perfect paintings on ceramic plates. While re-creating the painting was slightly difficult, the main challenge was to prepare the colours and make the paint set on the ceramic plate with a transparent glaze,” he says. In both Delhi and Kolkata, customers who earlier preferred glass and opaque products are now inclined towards matte pastel shades. But ceramic buyers, he qualifies, are “moody”—what they like keeps varying.

Bipasha Sengupta of Goa, who has been working with clay for the past 15 years, agrees. She, therefore, doesn’t follow any market trend. “Every year you will find something new on my table,” she says. The highlight of her stall is a sea-inspired creature, featuring multiple fins and a small hollow cavity in black-and-white porcelain. It is a limited edition and cannot be recreated. Other ceramic products include sushi plates, vases, cups, saucers, fruit bowls—in blues and browns. An alumna of Delhi Blue Pottery, Sengupta believes that people in Goa understand ceramic art “slightly better” than Delhiites. “They understand the importance of clay and pottery, the importance of studio potters and that each piece is handmade and one of a kind, hence it is also expensive,” she says.

Inspirations, styles

The fest is full of surprises. One moment you are looking at minimalistic and subtle utility products, and the next moment you are looking at the rustic and the raw. A row of unfinished cups catches our eye. Making a return to the annual fest after the COVID-19 pandemic is Sarban Chowdhury, a ceramic artist and professor from Jodhpur. His style, inspired by the Harappan civilisation, as seen in his cups, is about uneven brims, rough finishes, and irregular structures. “What is extracted from the earth has a rustic feel. My work is more on the lines of the Japanese proverb Wabi Sabi, meaning everything is inherently imperfect and fleeting,” says Chowdhury.

Shivangi Arora, another Delhiite, has been in love with clay since childhood. While creating church-like structures for a school project, she realised that pottery is her language. Arora, who has been teaching pottery for mental well-being, says she is “the first potter in India to make hair clips out of clay”. The floral shapes made of white porcelain clay are tied to metal clasps, coated with 24-carat gold. The collection ‘Flowers on the Moon’ is her borrowing of Zimbabwean author Billy Chapata’s book with the same title. “Handmade pottery has come a long way over the past ten years and will always be in demand,” she says.

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