Saturday, March 31, 2012

Paths, I have not been for long, puja at home.

A day before the festival of colours, was an important day for our household. On this day, the house is mopped with fresh cowdung with little straw "gober se neepte hain" we make special food; "puaa" and "badi" (am incapacitant to find parallel in english); on a make shift stove. Then in a ceratin way these are offered to the house God, "Kul devta".

Paths, I have not been for long, potters home.

Bhola Pandit and family. This family of potters provide all the terracotta ware needs of our household. Whether it is roof tiles "Khapara", water pot "Surahi", storage pot "Hariya" or pot for yogurt/curds "Katahari".

I attempted throwing on the pivot wheel. I was careful with my toes and knee, not to get hurt. I could manage to sit in squat position for half hour at a time. With small breaks to stretch my leg, I made pots for couple of hours.
As it is a pivot wheel, the wheel head does not stay parallel to the ground. Hence if i like to continue, would have to make changes in my style of throwing.


Paths, I have not been for long, inspirations.

Could be clay!! some of them are clay... clay sculptures....!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Paths, I have not been for long.

On 24th February, I started from my home in Pondy at 2am. I had my flight from Chennai to Patna via Delhi. From Patna 250kms to my village home, it took 6 hours owing to the state of the roads in some parts. Part of the distance has newly laid fantastic roads. Reached at 9pm.
in 19 hours I was 2500kms north, at my ancestral home in a remote village. Welcomed with love and warm dinner by my mother and father.

Kala Kendra, Robert Winter and The English Potters

A two week exhibition at Kala Kendra.
Robert Winter is a professor at Suntherland University in England.
He with fellow potters from England, and Indian potters work displayed at Gallery Square, in Auroville.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jae Joon Lee, an Inko project @ GBP, Pondicherry

I received a call from Rathi Zafer asking me if I could help a Korean artist fire his work in Ray 140cft kiln at Golden Bridge Pottery. It was urgent as the exhibition was to open on the 14th.
I am never sure if ceramic and urgent go together.
Anyway, I agreed to help.
On 12th morning 10am, Ray and I received the Korean artist Jae Joon Lee at the studio at GBP.
Ray has a big kiln and a nice studio facilitated with fork lifts, boards, bricks etc. This is the only studio of its kind in India.
Joon participating in a ceramic camp being held by Inko in Chennai. He brought with him two parts of his large scale work. These were already fired once to 1250 deg C. After applying an oxide in the depressions, he carefully applied a Terrasigilatta all over the surface.

Finished loading the kiln by 730pm and started firing. This was to be fired to 1050 deg C in oxidation atmosphere.
I had never fired this 140 cft wood-fired kiln in an oxidation atmosphere. So, here I was learning it. :)

Working with the artist, it was a beautiful experience when I saw - the artist sitting outside watching the kiln, was one with his work inside the kiln. Those were some fantastic moments.
The firing finished at 230am.

Unloaded on 14th morning. Packed and sent to Chennai.

I visited Chennai on the 16th, and saw in the exhibition some of his works from Korea. The surface quality and colours were the same.
I got convinced that the kiln kept up the oxidation atmosphere most of the time to give such similar effects!!

Anagama firing, Jeff Shapiro Workshop @ GBP, Pondicherry

Email to the outstation participants. -

Dear All,

Finally I find myself in the state to update all of you with the details of the firing.

The kiln was loaded by Wednesday, 25th. Door bricked up as discussed with Jeff. started with gas pre heat at 5pm.

After a small puja, and light a small fire at the back on the chimney floor, Iber started wood on the floor, midnight 26th Jan, Thursday 00:00 hours.
Ray, Veena and Ashwini came in at 08:00 hours and took on the kiln which was at 150deg C.... Rakhee and Adil continued post lunch and the kiln was at 450 deg C at 18:00 hours.

Ranjita, Ange, Indrani, Iber and I started stoking the front fire mouth and got the kiln to cruise smoothly until 900 by midnight. Ange took off and Neil came in at 3am. We had to keep playing tricks for the temperature to keep rising as per schedule. we had to be at 1225 at 0600 hours on 27th Jan.... but we were 1150 and were struggling. there was a good ember built up, cone 6 was down and cone 8 soft in the front. According to Jeff's notes-shovel coals once cone 7 goes down. Good timing. The morning crew arrived and we attempted shoveling embers into the setting. (specified by Jeff, floor level l- r, first shelf l- r, second shelf centre) Partly achieved.

Ray, Ashwini and Neil worked on the kiln, gained temperature in the front, got cone 9 down and followed by stoking the middle firebox.

Post lunch crew continued the same. Shoveled coals twice through the afternoon.

Night crew- Neil, Ranjita, Rashi, Indrani, Iber and I got there.. cone 10 was down in the front. cone 8 down in the middle firebox and cone 1 down in the back stack! Very exciting, we were building up the middle fire box and maintaining the front temperature. by 2030hours the ember built up and cone 9 was down in the middle firebox and so we started stoking the back firebox and continued to maintain temperature, as well as built up embers in the front. We opened air holes in the middle firebox for burn down. by 2330hours we had nice built up of embers in the back firebox and front, so............ shovel!!!! this was a lot of fun. We saw reflection and at some point shadow of the poker on two pots that we pinned our focus on. The glazed Yunomi looked beautiful and one round slipped pot was absolutely matt at this point. I could not read as much as i would like to (i understand it will happen by repeating and seeing results) but at this moment it was only very exciting!!!!

By 0600 hours on 28th Jan, two times built up and burn down in front and middle fire box. one build up and burn down for back fire box, building up the back second time. Shoveled twice through the night. Cone 11 was standing in the front, to our relief. cone 10 bending in the middle firebox and cone 8 down in the back stack. The kiln was roaring. The poker shadow on the slipped pot, informed a good layer of ash deposit on the pot. Hurrah! We might finish firing today! DO NOT WANT TO OVER FIRE! Pulled out draw rings. good ash built up. :) consensus, lets see draw rings mid afternoon and decide when to salt.

Ray had to play a few more tricks to get the back stack to temperature and get cone 9 down. It all worked well, by letting temperature drop a little in the front. Worked!! Shoveled coals once today.

1800 hours on 28th, we decided to salt around 1130ish. continued to build up embers in the middle fire box. Back looked hot. Kept maintaining the heat in the front. by 2100 hours we had 1193deg centigrade in the back and the cone 10 was quarter bent. Perfect time to salt. The firing team came in one by one and we salted the back stack!!!!. We decided not to push in the damper. Neil thinks that in such a case, the salt effects on the side which faces the fire and then the salt escapes through the chimney. We introduced 12 kgs of salt. lets see what we get!

It all looked very nice. at 2330hours, was the last stoke. After 15 minutes, leveled the embers in the front and half buried a tea bowl and a yunomi (made by Jeff), into the embers, and then closed the kiln. This time the damper has been closed properly.

Plans to unload on Thursday, 2nd february. Will try and document as best as possible.

Thanks a ton to all who helped through the firing. Wouldnt have been able to do without it.

Please feel free to add notes of firing, will really appreciate that.

Hope everyone is well!! Cheers.


summary - 72 hours firing. approx 6 cycles of build up and burn down. cone 10's down all through the kiln. Very very exciting :))

p.s. I do know that it was the circumstance that we could not fire when Jeff was here, But I really wish we had fired in his presence.

Jeff Shapiro Workshop, GBP, Pondicherry, India

Jeff Shapiro is an eminent Ceramist, who lives and works in Accord, USA. We at Golden Bridge Pottery, had invited him for a workshop, 9 - 21 January 2012.
Unfortunately Pondicherry was hit by a devastating cyclone on 30 December 2011. The wind speeds were 140k/hr. Pottery lost some huge trees, many of the workers homes suffered damage. It totally shattered me as it did to the city, and i was worried as to how this event would take place.
Jeff was informed of the status, and he was positive about coming, inspite of the odds.
Ray and I geared up to our best and i know that it would have been a bigger disaster if we succumbed to Thane cyclone. We would have only regretted.

There was not any less organization to do if there was no cyclone. With Thane cyclone hit just 10 days before the workshop several works got added onto the list. There was all the clearing up and the repairs to be done, along with the usual prep. All of GBP, Ovoid, Ray, Debi and I worked towards it and prepared for Jeffs arrival.
Help arrived from unknown quarters and some participants came in advance, Veena and Zach were here nearly a week before. They were strong and an excellent help. Ray and Debi were setting up the gallery at their home. This meant scrambling through their collection. They had a well kept list of things that they have and what all they wished to display. It was all planned, still it was a lot of work. Rakhee, Ashwini and Adil arranged to do a lot of organizational help, towards various aspects of the workshop.

I was arranging and making preparations at the pottery for clay work, glazing and firing which were to happen in the workshop.

The day Jeff arrived, i thought he would rest for a day, but to my surprize he accompanied Ray to the pottery, and it was great to meet him... . It just did not seem that I was meeting him for the first time.

We had the welcome evening and gallery opening.
Jeff was not expecting what he saw here in Pondicherry. The gallery looked magnificent. Ray and Debi have an excellent collection of ceramics.

I do not have any pictures, my hands were full and I decided not to carry my camera.

His presentation at my Ovoid office informed us about his life and work .
There were 23 participants and we all flanged around Jeff in the days to follow. when he did clay work, and narrated several stories.

Due to the cyclone the pottery was flooded. Hence the big Anagama kiln floor was very damp. There were discussions about loading and firing according to plan. It seemed unreasonable to do so with the ground water level only six inches below kiln floor level.

Ray had started building a smaller Anagama earlier in the year. This was finished upto floor level and the wooden frame made for further building.
This kiln was used for a mock load and mock fire. This must have been the first of its kind.

Loading of the old Anagama kiln proceeded. step by step Jeff explained about each step, what he is thinking when he loads the kiln. Also explained how the fire works in these situations. He is a superb teacher.

A show was planned by Adil Writer. Jeff Shapiro and Friends. Helped in displaying by some of the participants.


is an exhibition that is a part of the



golden bridge pottery, pondicherry.

Local and international potters are participating in this workshop which is being conducted by internationally acclaimed ceramic artist Jeff Shapiro from upstate New York.

The JEFF SHAPIRO & FRIENDS show at Kala Kendra aims at bringing together a myriad range of ceramic aesthetics showcasing current works and styles of participants.

“The Japanese sensibility of nature is inherently close to the aesthetic of wood firing. The aesthetic that I speak of is one that comes from the ‘imperfections of nature’. It cannot be forced or imitated but rather ‘assisted’ in the way we choose material, forming process and decoration.” .....Jeff Shapiro."

The south india tour was organized by Ashwini Bhat. It is a three day of travel to the several temple towns, the Ayyanar shrine and a village potter.

Jeff left on 21st.

The kiln was fired a week later.

My report of the firing to all the outstation participants will follow.

On the day of unloading, I pulled out my camera and here are some of what I saw. :)

Gaya Ceramic and Design, Ubud, Bali

It was a fantastic week, my trip to Gaya Ceramic and Design, in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
Hillary and Janur were wonderful hosts. They are just beautiful people. Whats best is when my hosts love Indian food. I loved cooking for them.
Also they introduced me to delicious Balinese cuisine. And it is a must have.
I was lucky that my Tea Master from Japan was visiting Ubud at the same time. One week seemed like a month!!
I worked in the studio, visited places, presented my work, and experienced the Thursday throwing classes. Hillary is so much in control, its lovely to see.
And the Art Centre at Gaya was taking shape.
It will be a nice place to work. Inspirational. :)