Dastkar, Bangalore: reflections
I very keenly went to Dastkar, although it was the last day and a very rainy afternoon.
So here are my thoughts on what I observed at the event.
The Khurja potters had sprawled out on the damp muddy ground and customers were making their way through the products lying around. The pieces lay there, unclean, chipped and a buyer had to really skim through them to select the best. Many were simply excited about the throwaway prices they were paying (as low as 350 for a dinner plate!) and had mainly 3 questions to ask before they picked up something: "dishwasher safe? microwave & oven safe? food safe?" A pile of broken pottery lay hidden under a tarpaulin.
I moved over to the vibrant pottery from Jaipur. Here, a young potter was making holes brightly coloured tray for a customer. This was the first time I had seen such a thing - piercing holes into a fired clay piece! When asked, he said he fired the pieces at 800C and not 1200C (like usually one would expect)
My immediate reaction was that of a little disappointment. As a potter and an entrepreneur running a ceramic ware venture, I was disappointed seeing the callousness with which pottery was being produced and handled. The potters didn't seem to be knowledgeable enough if confronted by a connoisseur or a discerning customer. I'm not sure why were they not in a proper stall? Could they not afford it? Were they not allowed one? The question remains to be answered.
Very obviously (refer to 17tharstreet that was quite enlightening), they were selling the rejects from batches produced for big retail brands. There was no talk of any thought out products.
However, the black stone pottery stall was a different story. They were communicative and willing to share complete information on the pottery that was on display - right from how the clay is made to the temperature it is fired and the maintenance involved. Basically, I understood what black stone pottery was all about.
So what is a little disappointing is to see is a lack of respect for the craft and craftsmen. Very clearly, as customers and buyers of ceramics, we need to be more aware and knowledgeable about what we are buying. Unfortunately when it comes to ceramic tableware we don't look beyond what appeals to the eye and the pocket.
On the other hand, when it comes to textiles (like choosing a saree), we are far more aware and take pride in knowing about the silk or the region where it comes from or sometimes even an anecdote linked to the craftsmanship.
The same is with food. We love to talk about the ingredients and how your mother or grandmother tweaked the dish a little to suit her grandchildren taste. We take pride in showing off our regional and festive delights.
Why ? Because that's the only way to realise the value and meaning. Its worth knowing about the materials that went in to making, the process, the nuances of design and the maker. It helps build a relationship with the object.
Also a well crafted object has the promise of a great experience.
So the next time you are choosing ceramic ware, go to the roots of craftsmanship