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Fragile future

Updated:2018-10-29 14:23:53   pioneer.com

Various artists from different states of India gather to contemporise the long forgotten art of pottery and terracotta. 

From community festivals to harvest seasons, wedding rituals and religious ceremonies, cooking and dining, storage and even down to house decor, earthenware is the only artform that threads us to our origins as a people and gets seared over fire on our collective imagination. But creativity is a game of talent. So artists at Terrafest — who have come a long way from Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Manipur — showed how the earth could still be moulded to changing destinies at the Triveni Kala Sangam.

Trustee Ravi Batra of Delhi Blue Pottery Trust, who organises Terrafest every year says, “Pottery is extremely important, potters use their bare hands to transform, almost magically, a lump of clay into products that are functional as well as decorative. If you see the process, you’ll instantly fall for the art form’s innate ability to reinvent and transform itself. It’s one of the traditional crafts which has been alive for hundreds and thousands of years. Yet it too can now die in the next 15-20 years if it doesn’t make economic sense for the young generation to continue their family profession. And for that we do showcases to push new markets,  upgrade skills and diversify into new bouquets.”

Batra strongly feels that the competition from plastic and metal ware has pushed terracotta to the edge of survival. He adds, “We must go back to it even in terms of environment as pottery is the most purest form that uses sand and clay.”

One of the artists, Anil Kumar Prajapati from Alwar, says that traditional artisans are finding it more and more difficult to live above subsistence level. Neither the money nor the recognition comes close to balance the hard work, that goes into the making. “Fests like these helps the artists like us and provide a platform for us where we can showcase our skills,’ he adds.

He also explains the procedure of how the products are made. Says he,“First of all we collect the sand or clay by digging it from mountains and forests that has been decomposed from rock within the earth’s crust for millions of years.The clay is kept for 20-25  days so that it tightens a bit. It is then divided in different ratios because the uses vary. The clay is modelled, dried, and fired, usually with a glaze. We also knead it like dough before glazing it. It is important to note that a clay body is not the same thing as clay. Clay bodies are clay mixed with additives that give the clay different properties when worked and fired; thus pottery is not made from raw clay but a mixture of clay and other materials. There are different ways of making the product, it completely depends on the artisans who create it. Clay may be modeled by hand or with potter’s wheel, may be jiggered using a tool or cut or stamped into squares or slabs.”

Batra says that they started organising the festival in 2015, and this is the fourth edition of the event. “We do not claim a penny of what the artisans make. We look forward to protecting this purest art form in any manner that we can.”

Ranging from earthen diyas and clay cookware to cut-work pieces of smoke-fired ceramics, the festival displays traditional, cottage pottery, and as per Ravindranath, is timely for the festive season.

By Team viva

Editor: John Li

Keywords:   art of pottery