Pottering around

ByProma Chakraborty

Jan 24, 2019

Putting the glaze on pottery is as much a science as an art, as an exhibition at the India International Centre shows

Unpredictable — that’s how artist Nandita Jain Mahajan likes to describe her work, nowon display at her first solo exhibition titled ‘Whimsical Glazes’. Nandita says, “Whimsical, in other words, can be described as unpredictable and the whole process of glazing is extremely and completely unpredictable.” She has been experimenting with ceramic glazes for the past two years since she acquired a gas kiln.

For the uninitiated, glaze is a substance used on the surface of pottery to form colourful designs. The colours of these glazes are attained under very exacting conditions and it typically takes hours of multiple firings in specially-designed high temperature kilns, a task that demands great dexterity.

“The fire has the final say. I can only hope that it will stay on the way that I have charted. How long I fire, the atmosphere inside and outside, all these impact the outcome,” adds Nandita while explaining the process of glazing. These glazes reveal their colour and depth during reduction, a process in which the kiln is starved of oxygen within a precisely controlled temperature range, and subsequent cooling.

There is no fixed time taken for glazing as it depends upon the number of layers used. “I like layering my work. My firing goes to 1,280–1,300C in a gas kiln,” she says. What makes her designs even more striking are the patterns and layers in her works. With over 50 exhibits that majorly explore the themes of Oriental glazes (Chinese and Japanese) and Spanish lustre, the outcomes are dazzling.

Well known for her achievements in her corporate job prior to this, Nandita was not always an artist. It was only recently that she stepped into the world of ceramics and her love for it has only grown ever since. It wasn’t a very conscious decision for her, she adds, “The last few years have been a process of discovery – of clay, decoration, glazes, firing, and most importantly, myself. The joy of small achievements and happy surprises are well worth the effort one puts in. The journey of clay, like life, is exciting and full of turns and twists.”

Despite demanding such patience, Nandita adds that it’s the uncertainty that she enjoys the most. “Sometimes the results are much better than what you expect. It’s a constant process of discovery. There’s always something new to be learnt, there is no end to learning in it,” she adds.

She calls out to everyone to drop in at the gallery and experience ‘how ceramics can be used as a canvas for expressing one’s dreams.’

The exhibition is on display at the India International Centre till January 31.