Seeking to unravel the alternate firing techniques with ceramic artist Shweta Mansingka, on one of the hottest days of the year, was like experiencing its high temperatures from the word go. I happily drove to a farmhouse in the outskirts of New Delhi in my dinky. Stuck in an election rally, reached my destination two hours later. Yet pleased to have made it, easily sunk into my seat once she began narrating her story of how clay found her at the age of 18.
Fascinated from 1989, under the tutelage of terracotta sculptor-Shri Ram Kumar Manna in Kolkatta, she surrendered to its flow, only to later realize her unique abilities, or better still, strengths. Her first solo exhibition of terracotta sculptures was at the Birla Academy of Fine Arts way back in 1995. Since then, she has continued training under several masters to adapt the nuances of the craft like glazing, tool making, kiln making, contexturizing and blackware, to make them her own. Eventually after shifting to Delhi, she began working with stoneware on the wheel under the guidance of Shri Devi Prashad ji; to finally set up her own studio in 1999.
Without wasting much time we went up to her studio on the second floor. The zen like space had her works neatly stacked on the wooden racks along the walls, while the equipment and material rested on white cemented shelves. The sparsely done up space was dotted with her creations in burnished shades of red done by saggar firing and black and white tangled effects achieved with naked raku. Taking me through the process verbally, showing the kiln, different phases of unglazed works, emphasizing on the minutest details of the craft, completely stoked her.
I realized then that Shweta was deeply spiritual, as she started speaking of clay with reverence, in context to the five elements of nature in Hinduism; appreciating its silent strength for withstanding both natural and man-made destructive forces with equanimity. The artist also acknowledged the fire clay’s ability to express sublimely her thoughts. Its malleable and yielding nature never fails to astonish her, much like a mediation in motion.
These porous home accents are done using primitive pottery ways, originally found in China, Korea, Japan and England. Addressing all cultures across borders she prefers to convey her messages simply by depicting everyday miracles of nature. And gives due credit for it to her mother, who always encouraged her to admire the all encompassing qualities of mother nature; clearly visible in her creative trajectory.
Driving to my next destination, I slowly began reading between the lines and realized what I needed to do the most – slowdown and enjoy mindfulness. Some purging was happening and being creative should not just be my hobby, but a way of life!