The tradition of innovation

The tradition of innovation

The tradition of innovation

Various items placed in different corners of this house  indicate a new trend in pottery. These art pieces are the creations of Nagaraj Chakrasali in Hamsabhavi village of Hirekerur taluk in Haveri district. Nagaraj has been experimenting with new designs in pottery and successfully tried designs from iconic heritage handicrafts like  Villianur Terracotta Works of Pondicherry, Bastar arts of Chhattisgarh, Monpa wooden masks of Arunachal Pradesh, Pokhran utensils of Rajasthan, embossed sculptures of Kerala and dolls of Channapatna, using clay. Interestingly, all these products are well-received by people.

His transformation from a humble potter to an innovative artisan didn't happen overnight. Like many others of his community, Nagaraj had to bear the brunt when there was a significant drop in the demand for clay pots, plates, jars, and other vessels and utility items due to the wide availability of plastic and metal utensils. Eventually, he migrated to Bengaluru with his family to make a livelihood. Though he tried his hands at various jobs, he was not happy, and yearned to continue pottery. As a result, he returned to his village and decided to continue the  hereditary

The exposure during his stay in Bengaluru helped him think differently and he chose to innovate and give a contemporary character to the occupation. He studied various handicraft designs and explored the possibility of making them using clay. After trying hundreds of designs, he succeeded in making 32 utility and decorative items in clay. They include water filter, cold storage, telephone stand, water bottle, pen stand, table lamp and embossed sculptures, among others. He also makes clay idols of deities, and social reformers like Sarvajna and Basavanna. The size of these idols range from that of a thumbnail to several feet high.  

In tune with the production line, he made use of social media to publicise and market the products. The new products caught the attention of people and as the demand increased, his nephew Shatish quit his job in Bengaluru to assist Nagaraj.    

Nagaraj uses a mix of clay sourced from two lakes in the village. The clay is mixed evenly and then soaked in water for a week. Later, four to five people stomp on it to homogenise it. This ready clay can be kept for weeks when stored in a cool place. Everyday, he uses a certain quantity of clay required for that particular design. Once the products are designed, they are baked in traditional kilns for 18 to 20 hours. Then he gives finishing touches to make these items attractive.  

In recent times, people are shifting to earthenware for health and aesthetic reasons. As a result, innovative and contemporary designs are much in demand. This has come as a blessing for Nagaraj and he gets orders in bulk as well. People from other states have approached him for training.    

At a time when there is a growing concern about the future of pottery, efforts like this, if given necessary support and momentum, can transform the lives of thousands of potters who are in distress.  

(Translated by Anitha Pailoor)