Anumita Jain is a product designer from NIFT, Delhi. She is the co-founder of SQ1, a studio-cum-retail store that provides interior and graphic design services at Hauz Khas Village, Delhi. She also runs an exclusive ceramics’ pottery studio - ‘A Clay Story’, where she personally hand crafts every piece of art.
Anumita believes that in today's world of mass-produced perfection, it is the little flaws of handcrafted pieces, that make them unique. She feels that each creation contains in itself a part of the soul of the artist, narrating her story, piece by piece. As this resonates with who she is as a person, the pull was organic.
Although Anumita studied Product Designing at NIFT, she was always interested in making products by hand rather than just designing them. She recalls how clay as a material had always fascinated her since she was a child but it was after her college, that she decided to explore it further. And she never looked back.
The Learning Curve
Anumita set out to train in ceramics under various artists in India. She started learning first at Delhi Blue Pottery and later she moved to Andretta, a small village in Himachal Pradesh where she studied it further. It took her a few months of practice and intense observation to acquire a certain degree of expertise in this craft. Since then, she has also attended a number of workshops and programmes under the tutelage of renowned artists.
“The learning never stops. Pottery is not just limited to wheel work, there are various ways to make the same thing, and the more time you spend with the material, the more you understand it better. Making is just a small part. Glazing, firing are huge subjects in themselves. I've been playing around with clay on my own for sometime, with constant guidance from senior potters and instructors at Delhi Blue.”
Tracing the Footsteps
At the age of twelve, Anumita recalls sitting at a potter's wheel at a fair in Bharat Bhavan where a traditional potter had some terracotta and was letting people try their hands on it. This is when she remembers falling in love with pottery. However, it wasn’t to be until her final semester in college when she interned for a firm that made ceramics, that she would consider taking it up professionally. As part of the internship, she got the opportunity to spend her days at the factory, working in proximity to the the karigars. It was this incredible experience that prompted her into forging a path ahead for herself in this area.
Do You Crumble?
Anumita recounts that the initial learning curve was slightly flat. For months she was just making a cylinder on the wheel, and more often than not, it would collapse! But the love for the material, the satisfaction of making something by hand, something of her own, is what kept her going.
“People would always tell me, ‘you're a designer, you're supposed to design and get it made instead of toiling at the wheel on your own everyday’. But unfettered, with each passing day, Anumita became even more resolved about overcoming all ordeals and perfecting this craft.
The Penny’s Worth
Anumita mentions that there exist a number of hidden costs in this industry as the design cost and the amount of input in terms of hard work and labour that goes into each individual piece is often unaccounted for.
It is unfair to equate the price to merely the material cost. However, Anumita is optimistic as she sees the Indian market gradually warming up to handmade products, though she still feels that the gestation period for the artists to get their dues will take time.
Anumita also works as the Design Head for an Export firm dealing in metal home decor. She says that this immensely help her gain insights about where her designs stand in the international market and she gets an exposure to the home decor trends worldwide, while also getting constant inspiration for running her own business.
The Journey Ahead
Anumita notes that as ceramics is a vast subject in itself, she considers herself to be at the beginning of the learning spectrum in this field. She enunciates that there are a number of techniques to learn and skill is extremely important when it comes to applying these techniques. As the material in itself is so malleable, Anumita believes that everyday is a new learning experience.
She now looks forward to expanding the studio SQ1 and A Clay Story filing people’s houses and lives with handmade. Her ideal future plan is to take up interior projects catering to everything- from space, to furniture, lighting and ceramics.
Anumita feels both very fortunate and content with what she’s done so far but there are many roads still to cross. To anyone hesitating, or questioning what the payoffs associated with taking up such offbeat avenues are, she says, “Do it! There's nothing more thrilling than following your dreams. It's a lot of hard work, sleepless nights, running around all over the city, but at the end of the day, it’s all worth it!”