Button as art

- May 31, 2019
| By : Harkirat Kaur |

Ceramic artist Megha Rawat had the courage to quit her well-paying job and explore the field of pottery to come closer to her true calling Have you ever wondered about the number of workers involved in making a piece of clothing and what it takes to bring to life a design? From the designer to […]

Ceramic artist Megha Rawat had the courage to quit her well-paying job and explore the field of pottery to come closer to her true calling

Have you ever wondered about the number of workers involved in making a piece of clothing and what it takes to bring to life a design? From the designer to the pattern cutter to the tailor to the embroiderers who further work to decorate the outfit –– it takes a team of dexterous artisans to get something as regular and simple as a buttoned shirt designed.

However, this may not always be the case. Sometimes, creatives with different skill sets contribute their bit to a designer’s vision for a garment collection. One such collaborator is potter Megha Rawat, in her early 30s, who recently developed ceramic buttons for Péro, a designer label helmed by Aneeth Arora.

In spite of their tiny size, buttons are a functional and aesthetic detail in most pieces of clothing that need fastening. For Rawat, who is a ceramic artist and has made tableware and planters for the longest, her stint with Péro was her first foray into the fashion world. “I had no clue about Péro until they got in touch with me,” says Rawat.

Ceramics happened to Rawat by chance, after studying commerce and working in the field of advertising and interior designing for a long time. “I was always creatively inclined, but was never encouraged to pursue it as a full-time job,” she adds.

As someone who gets bored easily, a 9 to 5 job was not going to go on for too long. It was just not her thing. “I am efficient and learn things very quickly,” affirms Rawat.

We met her at her Noida studio in her parents’ house. It is a makeshift space which was previously a garage. The ceramic tools, equipment and her work seamlessly fit in the tiny room that she calls her workplace. The garden in the property’s courtyard often becomes a sun-lit location for the potter to shoot her products.

It was a close friend who persuaded her to learn pottery after a trip to Auroville. She took the risk of leaving her job in Mumbai and ventured into the field of pottery and art. Even though her friend who had promised to join her in this backed out at the last minute, she went ahead with it. It meant no steady income and letting go of her comfort zone ­­–– it was basically like starting all over again from scratch.

Now, eight years into her journey, she is a proud keeper of a full-fledged ceramic atelier. Rawat says that it was all worth it because it enabled her to explore her true potential.

A phone call united Megha with the team at Péro that was looking for a maker who could do custom ceramic buttons for them. Then commenced a cycle of sending samples and awaiting approval, and her little trinkets were ready to feature on Arora’s sustainable clothing line. “I feel very comfortable with Aneeth as she understands the nature of handmade objects,” says the ceramic artist.

The buttons are in colours inspired by the coral reefs and have been made in three sizes. Glazes helped the buttons formulate the hues that matched the sunny sea’s reflection. Sound of clinking ceramic buttons imitate that of the seashells and the sheer scale of it. All of this, with Péro’s logo, stamped on it, to remind a wearer of the starting point of their garment’s journey. The collaboration is a delight for people who find the idea of handmade products fascinating.

Her journey started in Andretta in Mini Singh’s ceramic studio where Megha first honed her craft, months before the ceramic studio actually takes in students. The excitement of working in the Himalayas strengthened her will to go learn there. It took her time, but she learnt well. Her formal training also included classes with the celebrated ceramic artist Rachna Parashar and a diploma in pottery from a Barcelona based studio.

“Practice is important than having a mentor, especially in the later stages,” Rawat says. Having understood three different schools of thoughts, she is equipped with the knowledge that there is no particular way to make a certain pot. “I was in Barcelona for a year, with people from around 10 different countries. So, it was a good influx of cultures and energies. It was then when I realised that I must find my own techniques to get a certain outcome.”

This experience led her to celebrate her not-so-perfect pots, which she would otherwise disfigure to use the clay again. In her opinion, the European culture is more accepting of the human imperfections, whereas, in the far east, countries like Japan are known for being extremely strict about every shape and size.

The rhythm of the wheel creates a meditative mood that she desires. “More than a ceramic artist, I am a potter.” She likes making functional objects that are also beautiful ­— tableware, planters and now ceramic buttons.

Her family now has an understanding of her work, which has only come with time. “Earlier, they used to think of it only as a hobby. My family and friends would always ask me what do I actually do.”

As a maker, Megha tries to curate work at exhibitions and markets that is saleable and also an expression of her artistic practice. Buttons in ceramic are still new territory for her, but it has opened up a new space in fashion for her to explore. “I have received a few queries and requests for samples,” she says, adding that she plans on coming up with a catalogue of the new designs of buttons and beads that she has developed.

“With a lot of artists using social media as a platform to display their work, it helps more people find out about the creative community involved with ceramics. It is much more open than it was a few years ago.” Her favourite artist is Alberto Bustos, based in Spain, whose work is inspired by his curiosity for nature.

With a broad community involved in industrial manufacturing of ceramic crockery that uses mechanised production processes, most businesses like hospitality prefer buying cheap ceramic products, that are sold at one third the price of a handmade item. “My coffee mugs are priced at Rs 350 to Rs 700 that are individually hand-sculpted on the wheel and then glazed, whereas a mould made cup is available for Rs 100”, she says.

According to Rawat, 99 per cent of the hospitality business uses mould-made ceramics, which has always made it difficult for her to collaborate with hotels and restaurants. But only recently, she sent a batch to Cafe Greenr that wanted something handmade to suit the theme of their space.

Her favourite part in all the pot-making processes is trimming once the pot is dry, and putting handles on them. “I am less of a salesperson, so making pots is what I love the most about my job.” Her practice, that is known as Mudslingers does great justice to how she goes about it.