For a long time, I thought pots, made out of clay, were natural things that you could just dig out from the ground. Of course with time, I realized how they got to being the way they are. Even as a kid, I was very interested in making things out of clay. I remember when I was about 9 or 10 years young, I used to make some random shapes out of red clay, that My mom used to buy to plant her money plants.
I made some small coasters, small bowls and what not, with really withered edges, cracking at almost every end. I used to make these, and leave them at the courtyard to dry. After about two good days of sun bathing, these models of clay were ready to be my play toys. In Tamil, we called this ‘choppu saaman’, meaning small things used in the kitchen. I remember how I filled up these bowls with rice and gram and all sorts of things including water and mud itself.
I can’t really recall what happened to them after that. I remember throwing some of them into a well because i dint like the way they turned out. My mom did complain about muddy water a week later, but I decided to keep quiet. About 4 years later, we had a class trip to Dakshin Chitra (an art hub of South India), where I saw a potter use his wheel and magically make pots of different shapes and sizes. I was totally wowed by it and immediately got to dirtying my hands there. With this help, I made something that resembled a pen pot. Not bad for a proper start, I thought.
After that, I almost forgot about my love for pots and how I thought that I would make a great potter some day- not of the magical type though. Recently, when Karthik and I were drawing up a wish list of sorts, pottery cropped up again and I wanted to go learn pottery and make some really awesome stuff. How difficult could it be to just move your hands in a pattern to create some great shapes, I thought.
After i quit my job, i did have a lot of time in hand, which i call my creative sabbatical. So i decided I would spend the while doing artistic things that would further stimulate my right brain. I did my research, made a couple of phone calls and before anything else, I realized that learning pottery was really expensive, especially in Singapore.
But I was quite determined and after about a month, I found this place call Sam Mui Kim pottery, that offered basic hand building classes at about 500 sgd. I signed up and there I was, in front of a little hand building metallic disc that I was supposed to rotate in an anti clockwise fashion to create magic.
Within the first 20 minutes, I was faced with cruel realisation that pottery is not just about artistic building, but a lot about achieving technical precision. What I thought would stimulate my right brain, ended up being an enormously consuming left brained exercise. I was making concentric circles, measuring the centre of a clay flat, cutting the clay out at particular diameters and looking for balanced symmetry. None of that seemed artistic to me from any angle. Over and above all this, there was yet another quality of mine being put to test – Patience. Pottery is about patience. The creative mind goes searching and wandering to find as many things within a given time, the logical brain is also almost like that. But I had to whip both these senses of mine and commonly produce a state of being called patience. At may points during my first session itself, I wanted to give up. I wanted to tear the clay away as it was being built. However, I kept motivating myself thinking that when this is done, I can now call myself a creator. A creator of a perfect pot.
After three hours, a successful pen pot was made, not perfectly symmetrical though. I was happy about the asymmetry. Nw I can call the pit artistic. The expert potter Mr Kim Told me that I was very good for a beginner. I knew it was his way to let me know that I should come back for the next class. My palms were aching, my fingers were numb and I was in pain. Creation is bloody painful !
Over the next 3-4 classes, I sort of got used to the rhythm and routines of hand building. And when I saw my first pot all fired up and painted, I felt great. I felt even better, when friends of mine asked me where I bought the pot, when I showed off my new creation.
Now I have made pots, bowls, vases and even a tea pot, all in just about 30 hours of painful work and patience. Now I know that I can never look at a pot the same way I did before. I can look beyond the pot now, and understand what would have gone into creating this and that, is my pot of learning