Clay is a versatile medium, even better is its ability to enthral and enchant; the play of clay for some is so alluring that it becomes the crux of their creative self. In this edition of The Specialist we catch up with one such individual – meet Shalan Dere, the proprietress of the Potter’s Place.
It is one of those days when you realise that working in an air-conditioned office is a much better option that being in the company of sultry weather. However, the draw of the person in question and her creations are enticing enough for me to act otherwise. I am in front of The Scottish School in Matunga trying to locate “Potter’s Place”. After going round in circles for a few minutes, an angelic soul guides me to the proper address – voila I have made it!
As I greet Shalan she exclaims, “I was about to call you,” but sadly my phone was out of battery and that would not have been much help. As we get talking Shalan introduces me to her body of work – from the personal moments of a young couple, to a Happy Family and Rhythm, the dancing bottles with a turquoise glaze, her creations capture and recreate a plethora of emotions.
Then there are more functional ones like the planters; but what catches my attention is a collection of plates and saucers which have been inspired by leaves in her garden – simple yet amazing.
Another aspect that strikes me is the glaze and the finish of the product that is absolutely extraordinary. I ask her how she manages it and quick comes a reply, “It’s an individual process and every potter has a trick up their sleeve to ensure that the glaze and finish of the end product is unique.”
For Shalan to come to this stage it took almost 10 years, but then for someone who left aside a well to do career post her MBA this journey has not only been interesting but immensely fulfilling. “In the early days when I was initiated to this art, I practiced only twice a week on weekends and since the only kiln available for the firing process was in Karjat, it was a weekend trip there for me,” she says.
Slowly Shalan realised that she would need her own set-up to carry on with her pursuit and that led to the birth of the Potter’s Place. The studio encompassed all the space she needed to make and display her creations – besides acting as an exhibition venue as well.
Getting back to her creations some of them reflect the personal anecdotes of daily life, take for example the piece called “Awaiting” which shows people on a bench waiting. In a sense it probably reflects the thought that in life we are all waiting for ‘something’. Though most of Shalan’s creations exhibit a ‘multiplicity’ in terms of their inspiration, there are some which exhibit a ‘singularity’ like the sculpture inspired by the work of Henry Moor, a well-known English sculptor and artist (the glaze used makes it look like metal work).
Different firing techniques are used in creating and glazing the products including Raku, a Japanese firing technique in which the results are visible within a span of two hours.
Many interesting and diverse pottery decorating techniques like Slip Tailing are also put to good use.
Shalan believes that pottery is a restorative art and many of the participants at her pottery workshops have taken up this art to escape the daily conundrum of life and be at peace with themselves. The art is quite popular among young students too who have a willingness to experiment with the medium.
Shalan believes that pottery in India gets short changed unlike abroad where it is appreciated so much more. “People are like… matti ka hai… so the general perception is not much work is involved and it should come cheap, like the mass produced varieties; but the actual story is that even the smallest product of clay undergoes as much as 10 steps – right from preparation of the clay to glaze and overglaze firing.”
As a potter Shalan has interacted with fellow potters to raise awareness and exhibit the product collectively which has been a runaway success. Her solo exhibition too was immensely successful in terms of the compliments and revenue it garnered. Two more exhibitions in the city are on the anvil of which one will be held at Kamalnayan Bajaj Hall and Art Gallery in the second week of October. Shalan believes that this is a good way to not only enhance the commercial prospect of potters as a community but also pottery as an art form.
Even for a self-trained potter like her learning never stops and given the slightest opportunity, Shalan makes it a point to garner additional know-how and harness it in her creations. From bowls and platters to vases, murals and home accessories, Potter’s Place offers a varied number of ceramic artefacts and products that can provide an artistic touch to your abode. Customised products too are a ready possibility – for further queries a visit to the studio would be the best way to get things fired-up.
Text By Vikas Bhadra
‘Sumati’,Lt. Dilip Gupte Rd,
Mahim, Mumbai 400 016
[behind Bombay Scottish School]
tel: +91 97730 95005