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  • Writer's pictureDilmit Singh

The Potter

I wish I could remember the name of the dirt road that led to the little hamlet on the outskirts of Udaipur where I photographed the Rajasthan potters. A name often lends identity to not just the place but also the craft associated with it. On that particular morning, even though it was still early in the day, the sun spread its warmth with abandon and in abundance. The desert sand responded; it embraced the heat in its shimmering grains and shared it with the scattered earthenware - a resplendent show of red terra cotta, in raw and embellished forms, some awash in their perfection, others waiting to be fired so they too could emerge worthy. The men worked at the wheels and the women gathered the unglazed clay formations on dirt crusted wagons transporting them for bisque firing. Men in their traditional white dhotis, women in their colorful garbs, children half clothed and bare footed and the multitude of wares... a feast for the eyes. It was the pirouetting pottery wheels that held me spellbound. My eyes moved from one swivel to the next mesmerized by the dizzying speed calibrated to construct and create the desired shape. Unique pieces emerged as seasoned hands molded, shaped, designed, and lifted them off the wheel. Hands, movement - so deft; so adept. Apprentices as young as six, watched.

In the pandemic’s mandated confinement, I am reliving the what, who, when and why of pictures and pieces painted decades ago. The Potter was painted when I was in the early years of self-teaching. Capturing the aerial view was a challenge and my appraising eye transformed the muddy brown of the ground into the deep red of the clay. Coordinated brush strokes created the movement of the wheel as the completed pottery pieces cast their ponderous shadows on the ground. The painting is dedicated to the indigenous artisans who, to this day, carry on generational traditions and continually seek recognition of their craft as families work together to save the aesthetic flavor of their unique identities.

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