Terracotta wonders

Meticulous crafting process, sustainable benefits, and the growing popularity of terracotta jewellery from Hyderabad-based designers are capturing hearts worldwide
Indian terracotta has a long history in roof tiles, decorative items, and even building houses.
Indian terracotta has a long history in roof tiles, decorative items, and even building houses.

HYDERABAD: Have you heard of sustainable jewellery? You might be familiar with sustainable clothing and decor, but jewellery that’s elegant, handmade, eco-friendly, and complements both ethnic and western wear is also making waves. Terracotta jewellery, crafted from natural clay through a creative process, is gaining traction as the world embraces sustainability. We reached out to city-based terracotta designers to learn more about this emerging trend.

Indian terracotta has a long history in roof tiles, decorative items, and even building houses. Now, it finds expression in jewellery. Uma Macherla, a terracotta jewellery designer and founder of Zumkhi, explains that terracotta jewellery differs from conventional jewellery in several ways. “It is skin-friendly and eco-friendly, made out of natural clay, and doesn’t cause skin rashes or irritations. Additionally, natural clay reduces body heat, adding another beneficial aspect to this type of jewellery.”

Creating terracotta jewellery is a meticulous process requiring considerable effort and time. Jaya Mehta, founder of Trendz Terracotta jewellery, elaborates, “First, the clay is prepared for designing. The jewellery is then crafted by shaping the clay into various forms, including beads and intricate cutouts. These pieces are assembled and left to dry for two to three days. Once dried, they undergo a firing process that lasts for 24 hours. After firing, the pieces are cleaned and then painted. The final steps involve assembling the jewellery, varnishing it, and preparing it for packaging. Even the simplest piece of terracotta jewellery takes at least a week to complete from start to finish.”

She adds that making terracotta jewellery often starts from scratch, utilising everyday tools like cookie cutters, pens, caps, and refills. Anything with texture can leave impressions and aid in the design process. Pottery and sculptor tools are also used, along with various professional molds available in the market. “I incorporate colour and texture into my terracotta jewellery designs by using a variety of techniques. I hand-paint each piece with vibrant, high-quality paints.”

Jaya Mehta
Jaya Mehta

Each piece is carefully cleaned and a glaze or varnish is applied to give the jewellery a polished, durable finish. This not only enhances the colour and texture but also provides a protective layer to the final product. She emphasises the sustainable aspect of terracotta jewellery, saying, “Working with terracotta is highly sustainable, as it is a natural, biodegradable material that has minimal environmental impact. This aligns with my values as an artist. I strive to create beautiful jewellery while being mindful of the planet. Using eco-friendly practices not only preserves traditional craftsmanship but also promotes a more sustainable future, which is a core principle in my work.”

When asked about the craze for terracotta jewellery in Hyderabad, she said, “The response from Hyderabad, across India, and even globally has been overwhelmingly positive. When I started posting my work on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, I was unsure how people would react, but the enthusiasm and appreciation were incredible. I remember receiving messages from people appreciating my designs and collections. Moments like these make my journey as a terracotta jewellery artist truly rewarding.”

Uma Macherla
Uma Macherla

No matter how good the journey is, there are always challenges. Highlighting a few from her journey as a terracotta jewellery designer, Jaya said, “When I started making terracotta jewellery 13 years ago, it was a real challenge, especially in Hyderabad where the concept was relatively unknown. Sourcing materials was extremely difficult because nothing was locally available, and we had to search extensively in local markets and other regions. Back then, online shopping wasn’t an option, making the process even more complicated.

However, things have drastically improved. Today, post-COVID, almost everything can be sourced online, making the process much more convenient. Payments have also become easier with the advent of UPI and other digital methods, eliminating the need for bank visits for transfers. This shift has significantly streamlined our operations, making it much simpler to obtain the materials we need from anywhere in the world.”

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The New Indian Express