Moulding destinies in clay

Pottery is not merely an art, but a fine way to earn a livelihood, writes Divyashri Mudakavi.

Pottery is not just about moulding a lump of amorphous clay on a potter’s wheel. It is a way of giving a perfect form to a riot of creative ideas. This is what strikes your mind when you first step into the serene and green campus of the Central Village Pottery Institute (CVPI), nestled on the eastern banks of the Malaprabha river in Khanapur near Belgaum.

In a time where more celebrities, corporate honchos and professionals are turning towards pottery to beat stress, this institute has been constantly working to promote and revive the tactile art, while at the same time uplifting the entire pottery community in town.

Run by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), Mumbai, it is the only central institute in the country which is solely dedicated to research and training in pottery technology.

Be it traditional potters or industrialists; students or doctors, the institute opens a passionate world for each one of them.

How the wheel moved on

It all began in 1954 when the then All India Khadi and Village Industries Board set up the institute in a small, rented place, which was taken over by the KVIC in 1957.

It was declared a training centre in 1963. From then on, the Centre began operating in a new building, spread across 3.5 acres.

It has carved a niche for itself in clay craft and designing. With its dedicated staff, the institute offers a host of stipendiary and non-stipendiary courses that gives hands on experience to learners.

Besides offering courses in pottery technology, terracotta artware, clay glazing and ceramics, the institute conducts workshops for students of fine arts, engineering (ceramic and mechanical streams) and others, across the country.

Experts from institutes like National Institute of Design (NID), IITs, and IIMs frequent the institute and provide their inputs for imparting quality training.

The CVPI faculty has also held training sessions at South Africa, Ghana, and other countries.

Many industrialists who have been trained here are running successful pottery business worth millions across the globe.

The Centre is set up in Khanapur, where the clay obtained is of excellent quality.

A thin variety of pottery has been traditionally developed with designs embossed on it, with variants like whiteware, machine, redware, wheel and kiln sections and a small sales section.

The premises has a laboratory for soil testing, a library with an extensive collection of books on pottery and a hostel for the trainees.

An exhibition hall greets visitors with an eclectic mix of artefacts like lamp shades, flower vases, miniature monuments, animals, idols of gods, abstract figures and pots, which have been produced at the institute.

These pieces of art reflect the dexterity of the nimble fingers that have produced them.

A craft hub

Khanapur is famous in southern India for its clay pottery, mostly in the form of intricately made storage jars and artistic figures.

“CVPI acquaints the trainees in creating items of pottery in the form of various garden pots, bonsai pots, grameen sheetak (rural refrigerator), smokeless chulha, tandoor, kulhads, and cups,” says S N Kashikar of the institute.

Though not on the retail front, CVPI has a cell which lends support in terms of technology, finance, and entrepreneurship to enthusiasts even after the completion of the course.

Traditional art is not enough in this competitive league. People always look for something new.

So, working by adopting the three-pronged strategy – tradition, innovation and modernity, the institute is focusing on quality control, contemporary design, skill upgrade, value addition, and eco-friendly product innovation.

It is ultimately the motivation at the institute, the freedom of expression, the warmth of clay and the bond with the spinning wheel which drives people to dirty their hands in clay.

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