Rohit Kulkarni and Bhairavi Naik of Pune are the proud owners of a ceramic studio that caters to crafting beautiful artefacts – objects of desire for regular use
we all wait impatiently for those first fat, fresh raindrops after a long, hard summer. The closest relative to the refreshing scent of petrichor can be found in the art of pottery, whose therapeutic properties are well known. Haven’t we all enjoyed pushing our hands in wet-clay or watching how an artefact takes shape right in front of us? It has kept people from all walks of life so intrigued and fascinated to an extent that even folks from corporate industry couldn’t be away from it. Nestled on the outskirts of Pune, Rohit Kulkarni and Bhairavi Naik started a ceramic studio that caters to crafting beautiful objects. Rohit stresses, “The joy when one gets by using our work makes it worthwhile of all of our efforts. We craft work that can be best described as objects of desire. The fact that one can use it in their daily lives set us apart”
Curators of Clay was started in 2014 by Rohit, a Masters in Communication and Bhairavi, a post-graduate in Biochemistry and an MBA who have turned now into full-time potters. But, what made them leave their corporate lives and pursue this passion? Rohit explains that the studio has been a pursuit of happiness, peace and beauty with clay being their medium of choice. Having both pursued pottery as a hobby while working in mainstream media, the shared passion for craftsmanship and the zeal to live an unconventional lifestyle led them to set up the atelier that focuses on handcrafted high-fired functional ceramics. He further enlightens, “Bhairavi and I met at a studio space in Mumbai where we both used to work together. We discussed our individual plans to pursue ceramics as a full-time profession. Since our ideas and aesthetics were similar, we decided to set it up as business partners.”
No one can deny how frustrating lives can get in tiny corporate cubicles and still, finding the passion to break the mould and show the world the essence of artistry is exceptional. “It’s not just the art and craft that we love about ceramics – it’s the outdoor lifestyle that allures us where we work in sync with the seasons and all the natural elements – earth, water, air & fire.” Rohit believes that everything around an individual can be an inspiration and influence, so is the same for them in curating works that are artistic yet useful. Ceramics have been in this art world for centuries. Rohit breaks to us the processes involved while sculpturing ceramics, “We start every project from scratch – right from creating the right clay body followed by crafting each piece by hand, making glazes and then firing the work in our gas-fuelled kilns. We are contemporary in our aesthetics but decidedly old school in our approach, following time-honoured processes of handcrafted high-fired ceramics.”
Their remarkable way of curating ceramics by following the traditional, old-school methods has led them into creating subtle beautiful handcrafted, elegant and functional ceramics. Their line of products include mugs, dinner plates, bowls, teapots and lidded casseroles with chic detailing and statement colour codes. Their palette that mainly consists of earthy tones is deeply influenced by seasons and often, by the mastermind’s mood. Rohit credits, “All our glazes have a story and that’s what sets our work apart from other ceramics. Bhairavi is our resident glaze master. She creates all the gorgeous glazes we use”.Having a 3 member team in the studio, Rohit and Bhairavi are the primary craftspeople while there’s a third one who helps them across the board. Their works could be seen used by some of the country’s best restaurants and chefs. Spilling beans on their forward projects, he shares “We’re doing an exciting ‘recraft’ project with Masque restaurant. We are huge fans of the brand Patagonia and our Recraft project is inspired and influenced by Patagonia’s amazing initiatives in their space”. Working on various collections and collaborations with illustrators like Jasjyot Hans and fellow potters across the world, it was necessary for them to launch an online store to let the world know and see their craftsmanship.
Ceramic traditions have given us invaluable artworks from prehistoric pottery and ‘Art and Crafts’ movement in the west to the rise of porcelain in the east. However, he lets us know of the obstacles that come with pursuing pottery, “We just hope more people appreciate this art. Not many people realise the sheer skill and effort that goes into the making of handcrafted ceramics. There’s nothing more saddening than having people bargain with traditional potters on price.” Just like a coin has two sides so does the art of pottery. But, if people like Bhairavi and Rohit do not continue this craft, maybe, the world of ceramic art wouldn’t have continued for centuries. Curators of Clay have created a niche market based on their artistic skills alone. “Neither Bhairavi nor I come from a business background. It’s been a huge risk, a real struggle but we love it”, says Rohit.
Images by Curators of Clay