Creating impressions on clay

Creating impressions on clay

Shilpy Gupta had no formal training in pottery. In fact, her subject of interest was social science. However, she was always fascinated by pottery and wanted to learn more about it.

During one of her visits to the United States, she came across a studio potter and instantly  got herself enrolled as an intern there for a three-year course. She also learnt a few techniques from other potters.

With an experience of 15 years, today, she is a professional studio potter and practises an exquisite form of art on pottery which she calls ‘poetry on pottery’.

“One thing that I have learnt over all these years is that pottery is a skill and practice is what makes one perfect. It is definitely not as easy as it looks. In fact, I started appreciating potters and their effort a lot more after I actually started gaining knowledge about this art,” says Shilpy.

She points out that the work of traditional potters is under-valued and people here are still ignorant about this artform. Due to the supply of raw materials for studio pottery being difficult, she had to keep reinventing on the wheel when she set up her own studio in the city. Today, Shilpy works on an electric pottery wheel. “After many experiments, I have developed my own signature style — brushwork on the pieces that I make. The thrill of being able to create my own canvas and paint what I want to has been a motivating factor,” she says.

For ‘Ceramic Trail’, as she likes to call her array of work, Shilpy’s primary inspiration comes from Rumi’s poetry and nature. Explaining ‘poetry in pottery’, she says that the most common notion about pottery is tableware, but she wants to make people think beyond that.

“It is an artwork inspired by poems and the different philosophies that have inspired me. I try to give the lyrics of the poems a physical manifestation. For example, quotes by Buddha are manifested as a figure of Buddha or Rumi’s poetry is associated with whirling dervishes,” she explains.

She highlights that there are also times when she has to find different things that are associated with a particular line or theme, if there are no illustrations that can be incorporated.

At present, she is working on ‘Kabir ke dohe’ and ‘Mirabai ke dohe’. It easily takes about two to three months for her to develop a particular theme and about three to four weeks to complete a line.

Buddha, Sufi, dragonfly, butterfly and Rumi are some of the mesmerising themes that she has worked on.  “I don’t repeat my pieces more than three times as this tends to kill my creativity and the thrill that I get while creating something new. However,
I also do customisation. I have been taking workshops for the last eight years batch wise — once every week for eight weeks,” details Shilpy.  

She says that her family  was reluctant in the beginning as they couldn’t understand the interest. However, now they are her biggest support system. In fact, it was her husband who pushed her to open the studio.

A lot of hard work goes into this art and her take on this is that one needs to start with traditional pottery to increase the value of studio pottery.

She wishes people would stop haggling with potters as they put in a lot of effort to produce their final work. “As a society, we have to learn to value this art and look at it as a precious one,” says Shilpy.  

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