Shaping a blue universe  

Meet ceramic artist-couple, Elodie Alexandre and Reyaz Badaruddin, who make the most beautiful blue pottery at their studio, Atelier Lalmitti, in the small artists’ village of Andretta in Himachal.

Published: 02nd April 2023 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st April 2023 02:42 PM   |  A+A-

Elodie Alexandre and Reyaz Badaruddin

Express News Service

A blue cat sits curled up on a white plate. A blue fish swims in a sea of white. Blue birds, blue flowers, blue leaves, blue dots, blue squiggles and swirls—each motif is a fresh take on traditional blue pottery as we know it. Which is what makes Atelier Lalmitti so special. The material (clay) is the same. The technique (potter’s wheel) is the same. It’s the treatment (as in whimsical, playful patterns) that makes their ware stand out in the sea of blue pottery available in the country. 

What makes it even more special is that this studio is located not in any upmarket space in some big city, but perched high on the hills of Himachal Pradesh in the Kangra valley village of Andretta, some 13 km from Palampur. A rather special village it is too, with a historical connection to the arts—all thanks to Norah Richard, an Irish playwright who set up an artist colony here back in the 1920s. She encouraged renowned artists such as Sobha Singh, BC Sanyal and Freda Bedi to build small houses and studio set-ups to make meaningful connections to the land and local community.

Over the years, the colony has attracted many noted painters, theatre practitioners and, more recently, potters. All of whom have continued to foster those meaningful connections, creating a thriving community of art and craft. One such couple is Elodie Alexandre and Reyaz Badaruddin, who, besides nurturing a close-knit pottery unit in Andretta since the past five years, have a strong Instagram presence as well with over 15,000 followers poring over every post.

The two met through clay at the Cardiff School of Art and Design in 2009 where Alexandre was studying for a BA in ceramics and Badaruddin had come on a fellowship for the MA programme. They moved to Delhi after marriage and set up a studio where they pursued their individual practices till 2017, when they decided to make the move to Andretta. “We had been visiting the village for a long time, but when we decided to leave city life and move to a smaller place, it became an obvious choice,” recalls Alexandre, adding, “We were keen to pursue our practices as individual artists, while at the same time, sustaining ourselves financially. Which is why we thought of collaborating on simple, everyday pottery which would provide a more regular income.”

Functionality, therefore, is at the heart of their creative process. “We strive to keep our designs simple and ideal for daily use,” says Badaruddin. “Inspiration comes from our surroundings for the most part. The botanical motifs, for example, are interpretations of the plants and flowers around our garden and in the meadows and fields beyond. Living away from city life gives us time to focus on our work,” he adds.

The products are blue and white, so why Lalmitti? That’s because the clay used is red earthenware, which is then fired with a white glaze and decorated with blue motifs. From making to decorating, everything is done by hand, Badaruddin says, adding, “We work quite intuitively and our designs are based on what we feel like doing rather than what we feel we ‘should’ make. Which is why we produce small batches, with series that keep evolving. It’s a way for us to keep a fresh outlook and continue enjoying our work.”

One more thing that makes Atelier Lalmitti special is that it is much more than a clay studio. It is also a learning centre that strives to contribute both to local and global ceramic communities. So, besides the studio they set up at the back of their house, the couple also built an additional space for this purpose, which was financed via crowdfunding through  their wide network of supporters. 

Here, they run regular training courses, as well as a one-year mentorship for former students, and a two-month advanced programme every summer where students with a creative background come to improve their skills and discover their own voice in the medium. “This programme has already had fantastic outcomes, with many of our students having established their studio practice, with some even going for higher studies in ceramics,” Alexandre adds.

Looking back, the couple is satisfied with the journey thus far. “When we moved here, we were unsure whether our idea of making a living through full-time work in ceramics from a small village was realistic. It took us a few years to figure out a way of working from a rural location,” Badruddin says. As a small set-up, they have developed slowly and organically, and are keen to stick to their slow-life philosophy and no-growth model. “We wish to have enough, never more and more, because we believe this comes with a cost. Our aim is to keep a balance between practising our art, teaching and running our small business,” he adds. While they sell their products online (, they also retail at The Shop in Delhi, Paper Boat in Goa and Bengaluru as well as Curate Home in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.


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