Making mountains out of clay hills

With its never-ending possibilities, pottery can be both a creative as well as a meditative process. At his most recently-concluded workshop at Sunaparanta, ceramic artist, Mayank Jain gives participants the opportunity to fulfill this need, while making something useful at the same time

Team Goan | FEBRUARY 16, 2013, 10:21 AM IST

Thump a blob of wet clay on to the centre of a potter’swheel, hold it steady with the left hand while coaxing and pinching it to shapewith the right, creating a lovely work of art. It seems like the work takesseconds. If only that were true! As the participants of the fve-day long WheelTraining Workshop, held at Sunaparanta recently soon learnt, the task isn’t assimple as it sounds.

“You have to first centre the clay,” says ceramic artistMayank Jain, adding that it takes 20-30 hours to get the centring processright.

“We teach a little bit of centring and a few shapes so thatpeople get the confidence to create things on their own. They have open hourshere at Sunaparanta, so people can come later on and practice,” says MayankJain.

“I attended Mayank’s workshop in April last year and havebeen going to Sunaparanta regularly for the last 5-6 months to practice. Iloved every bit of the workshop; it was a childhood dream which materialised.Mayank helped us in every way to get the hang of the wheel. We learnt thebasics – cylindrical vessels and bowls – but recently, I tried making mugs andshallow bowls and they turned out quite well,” says an elated Deepa Rao fromDona Paula.

Because terracotta is cheaper and easily available- as itcan be sieved from locally available mud- it is used for teaching the basics.However, the process of working with both clays is the same, though stonewareis fired and glazed at higher temperatures (between 1200-1280 degrees Celsiusover 10-16 hours. Terracotta is fired at lower temperatures and is not glazed.

Mayank himself works with terracotta and stoneware, thoughhe admits that most of his creations are ceramics. He adds his own personaltouch by using items commonly found in nature for his glazes. “My fascinationwith stoneware has been mostly because of the glazes that I have been able touse. And living here, I have been able to use a lot of local ingredients likecow dung, ash, wood ash from different trees which people in my neighbourhooduse to boil water and cook rice,” says Jain. A glaze is a coating on ceramicvessels which serves to decorate, colour and waterproof the item.

Mayank, who was the creative head for a radio station sayshe stumbled upon pottery when he decided to do something ‘different’. He wenton to do a three-month residential course with one of India's most renownedstudio potters, Mansimran Singh, at the foothills of the Himalayas in HimachalPradesh.

Perhaps we all are born creative and sometimes it takesdirty hands to awaken the sleeping child in us.

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