You Are What You Create

Rohit Kulkarni on working with materials that leave room for surprise

Tejashee Kashyap

We all wait impatiently for those first fat, fresh raindrops after a long, hard summer. The closest relative to the soothing scent of petrichor can be found in the art of pottery, whose therapeutic properties are well known. It has kept people from all walks of life so intrigued and fascinated, that even folks from more white-collar fields have been drawn to it.

Nestled on the outskirts of Pune, Rohit Kulkarni and Bhairavi Naik work together in their ceramic studio - Curators Of Clay - where they spend their days crafting beautiful objects. "We craft work that can be best described as objects of desire. The fact that one can use it in their daily lives set us apart. The joy when one gets by using our work makes all of our efforts worthwhile," says Kulkarni, explaining how they went from media professionals to claymakers.

We caught up with him to discuss what spurred them to leave their corporate lives behind and pursue their passion:

Could you tell us about yourself and the ceramic studio?

Curators Of Clay is a one-of-its-kind ceramic atelier focused on handcrafted high fired functional ceramics. We describe our studio as a pursuit of happiness, peace and beauty with clay being our medium of choice. Bhairavi  I, co-founded the studio in 2014.

We are both ex media professionals who have turned into full-time potters.  Bhairavi is a post-graduate Masters in biochemistry and an MBA. I have a Master's in Communication.

How did you two know each other before you founded the studio?

We met at a studio space in Mumbai that we both used to work with - we discussed our individual plans to pursue ceramics as a full-time profession - and since our ideas and aesthetics were similar, we decided to set up the studio as business partners. And contrary to popular assumption, we are not a couple!

What lead you into working with ceramics?

We both pursued pottery as a hobby while working in mainstream media. Over time, we felt we'd like to explore this as a full-time pursuit. And our passion for craftsmanship and living an unconventional lifestyle led us to set up the studio with a focus on handcrafted, high fired functional ceramics.

Art can be a very diverse term. Do you believe pottery is an art form as well?

We'd like to believe that we are craftspersons first. Everything else follows. All art has its roots in the craft. And that's why we believe that what we craft is art for everyday use.

Could you walk us through the creative process?

In terms of creative process - for us it starts with envisaging the final product in our heads. After we've zeroed in on that, the craftsmanship skills kick in. We start every project from scratch - right from creating the right clay body followed by crafting each piece by hand, making glazes and then glazing and firing the work in our gas fuelled kilns. We are contemporary in our aesthetic, but we are decidedly old-school in our approach, following time-honored processes of handcrafted high fired ceramics.

What are the inspirations for your designs?

Everything around us is an inspiration and an influence. Our work is an extension of our personalities.

What do you like most about pottery and having a ceramic studio?

It's not just the art and craft that we love about ceramics - it's the outdoor lifestyle it affords us. Where we work in sync with the seasons and with all the natural elements - earth, water, air and fire.

What do you curate the most? Are the pieces for sale? How can people purchase them?

We make objects of function. So most of our work is tableware.

Is there only the two of you involved in doing the design work, or do you also have a team?

As of now, we are the primary craftspeople at our studio. We design and make everything ourselves. We have one other person who has joined us who helps us across the board.

What do you want your projects and art to communicate?

Happiness, peace and beauty. That's our goal. That's what we strive for in everything we do.

The colors of your pieces are one of a kind—did you develop your own color palette and how does it change with time?

Bhairavi is our resident glaze master! She creates all the gorgeous glazes we use. And our palette is influenced deeply by seasons and often, by our mood. All our glazes have a story and that's what sets our work apart from other ceramics.

Are there any materials interest you apart from clay?

At the moment we are fixated on clay. It's a whole universe! Maybe at some point in the future, we'll get over our obsession and explore other mediums like metal or leather.

What is the downside of working with ceramics and pottery?

Not many people realize the sheer skill and effort that goes into the making of handcrafted ceramics. There's nothing more saddening than having people bargain with traditional potters on price - it's downright insulting. We just hope more people appreciate the work.

Are there any recent projects you would like to tell us about?

We're doing an exciting 'Recraft' project with Masque restaurant. It's really awesome cause it's going to turn every standard notion of restaurant ware on its head! We are huge fans of the brand Patagonia, and our Recraft project is inspired and influenced by Patagonia's amazing initiatives in their space.

Looking back at this business, how do you feel about the decision to start Curators Of Clay?

It's been a huge risk. Neither Bhairavi nor I come from business backgrounds. And this is, in no way, a conventional business. It's a real struggle but we love it. No regrets ever!


Images by Curators Of Clay.

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