CHENNAI: What would you do on a sultry weekend afternoon? Switch on the AC and catch your zzz’s, or have a beer or perhaps sip on some cold lemonade? Well, the city’s eco-activists had other plans. Adults and children took part actively on the two-day terracotta exhibition held recently by the Organic Farmers Market (OFM) at TRE farms, Chetpet.
The exhibition — Bringing mud back — true to its theme had potters from Chengalpattu, Selaiyur and other parts of Tamil Nadu displaying their terracotta wares. Rekha Ramu, coordinator, OFM, said, “The number of people dropping in and purchasing these terracotta pots has been great. This will help the potters for the next five months when there’ll be no production for them.”
As City Express explored the venue, a crowded spot grabbed our attention. Meticulously spinning the big wheel and patiently teaching children and adults the art of pot making, Arjunan, a potter from Chengalpattu, was enthusiastic. “Put your finger in between the clay to get the perfect shape. Spin the wheel simultaneously,” he said to a 10-year-old.
With 30 years of experience, Arjunan grew up watching his father make pots. “Back then, a lot of people preferred to cook in mud pots…and then the entry of plastics and metals made life difficult,” he rued. “But now awareness about the positive effects of cooking in mud pots has grown. More people are coming forward to buy terracotta wares.”
Arjunan has been teaching in schools and other educational institutions, and he observed that children have been enthusiastic to learn the art. “Hardly anyone learns to make pots. I am training my son in pottery. Whatever he may do in the future, he must not let go of this art,” he shared with concern.
While the pots were being sold like hot cakes, Ranjani Chandran of ‘Maya — craving to create’ was busy painting them. Her pot painting workshop grabbed attention among the tiny-tots and there were plenty of colourfully painted pots at the venue.
“I am customising these pots according to the clients’ requests. We’ve already received many orders,” she said.
A terracotta jewellery workshop by Preethi and Saranya of No Harm Charm and the organic food stall were other highlights of the event. “The bondas are baked, organic and everything is cold-pressed,” shared Nithya of OFM.
Catching up with K Arasu, a graduate from The College of Fine Arts, Egmore, and the owner of Mayan Arts, he said that though he had worked in many animation movies for a decade, he decided to go back to what he loved the most — clay, mud and terracotta.
Running from stall to stall to pick the required pot demanded by customers, he said, “This is such a positive change. More people coming forward to buy what was once our heritage is heartwarming for artisans like me. This is what I love and I am at a happy place now,” he smiled.
A quick chat with Alladi Mahadevan of Organic Farm offered an insight into the current pottery scene.
“There were around 4,000 families making pottery a few decades back and now it’s come down to 200.
Since plastic industry has grown by leaps and bounds, one cannot ask the government to stop its production. It will make many lose their jobs. But, we are trying our best to get help for these potters.” Planning similar events across the city, Alladi said that the next event will not only emphasise the importance of pottery, but will also highlight the issue of sustainable living. “It will not just be about advocacy or workshops. But, it’ll also be about having a forum for people to procure the necessary material,” he added.