The inexplicable thing about India is how mysticism settles like dew on everyday occurrences. A long-time self-avowed secularist, I’ve been confronted by a near daily arrival of chance events that seem to be shaping me into something different- yet somehow closer to who I actually am. Perhaps its just that I’m more open to synchronicity in a world where everything is new; perhaps the deeply ingrained cultural mysticism of Hindu beliefs here are transmuting my New York cynicism into a happily-resigned shrug. In any case, I’m fully aware of the inevitable Eat, Pray, Love cliche I’m living. Again— shrug.
When I had arrived in Kochi I found a lovely store that sold design-forward local clothing, wares, and publications. I found the perfect oversized coffee mug for my oversized coffee habit, but decided against acquiring a heavy earthenware mug at the beginning of my journey. After perusing, I asked the sales clerk if she could recommend any interesting photographic ledes in the area concerning local arts and culture. She quickly produced the brochure of a ceramics & pottery workshop located in a once-defunct terra cotta roof tile factory— the same outfit that made my favorite mug. I made an enquiry, but other paths opened up and the clay workshop languished neglectfully for over a month.
The lost opportunity nagged at me until I decided I needed to backtrack and spend some time at this workshop.
ClayFingers Pottery is nestled in the most rustically idyllic tropical paradise I’ve encountered. I had daily fantasies of building a rainproof shack and living the simple life eating the jackfruit, coconut and multitudinous banana varieties that hover overhead. The staff was lovely, the food was the best I’ve had in India thus far (the things they do with coconut shock and amaze), and I got to get my hands very dirty. My initial plan for a day trip unfurled into a two-week process of creation.
I learned that throwing pottery requires the development of some sort of kinesthetic telepathy to sense the clay beyond touch. At time of writing I do not have this particular talent.
After several bowls that looked like melting chocolate ice cream, I asked Mehili, the head ceramicist, if I could sculpt a bust. He pointed me to the large plastic-swathed mass of earth on the floor that had been coaxed from the land outside. I got to work and something magical happened.
Now I don’t intend to imply that I’m on a trajectory towards the Gagosian, but it has been rare in my life that I’ve felt such fluid creation. Without reference pictures to guide my slapping-scooping-slashing fingers, a personage emerged in front of me! My fingers knew where to pinch and where to pull without the trepidation that so often hovers over the creative process. If my gut told me something wasn’t right, I’d sleep on it and know immediately what I needed to change upon awakening. I suppose all those years of photography and retouching had taught me how to see. Suddenly, disparate interests that I’ve had since youth collided together and things just made sense.
I created a few sculptures, and while I’m acutely aware that they may yet explode in the kiln, I feel a little more complete than I did two weeks ago. I don’t know what it means yet—maybe just a new hobby—but I sensed the physicality of creation extend beyond anything I’ve created in a studio.
Note: I highly recommend ClayFingers pottery for anyone who finds themselves in southwest India (I'm not receiving anything for saying this). If interested, please visit: