The first Indian Ceramics Triennale: Breaking Ground is on at the Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur (in collaboration with the Contemporary Clay Foundation) till 18th November 2018. This and few other exhibitions in the recent past have been slowly and steadily bringing to fore ceramics in India. On the surface it seems like a sudden burst of creativity, which must have been brewing for a while.
Being an admirer of utilitarian art I connected with Sonali Sharma – the co-founder of Nugu Handmade  (based near the Nugu reservoir in the Kaveri basin).
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MD: What is your design background?

SS: Well,  my husband also the co-founder – Sumanth Sampath is the main designer of Nugu Handmade. He is a ceramic designer and engineer with over 15 years experience. On completion of his studies in Michigan, USA he travelled the world and worked under various ceramic artists to understand the craft better. Then launched ‘Thanor Pottery’ in India, in 2008. That carved a niche for itself in the handmade stoneware market of the country, especially in the hospitality sector.

Sumanth, has also worked on several projects with renowned local and international chefs like Manu Chandra, Abhijeet Saha, Marlo Silva, Sakamoto Yushi to create stunning products for their restaurants – Olive Beach, Fatty Bao, Harima, Raintree and designed for 5 star hotels – Vivanta By Taj, ITC, W and a few more. Having participated in various international and national exhibitions he specializes in creating design-led functional products.

MD: Is there a special clay that you use for your pottery?

SS: Our clay recipe includes different types of locally sourced clay to best suit the needs of restaurants and homes. We call it Porcelaneous Stoneware, as it possesses the fineness of porcelain along with versatility and strength of stoneware. Its end products are strong, inert, food safe and chip resistant.

MD: Is the village where your handicraft unit is, known for this craft?

SS: Our design and production unit is in Mulluru village, H.D. Kote, Mysore district, Karnataka. Nearby are tribal communities known for their traditional handicrafts like pottery and stone carving. We train them to upgrade their skillsets so that they can make design-led functional products which can be used and cherished by the urbane.

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MD: Why did you feel the need to make ceramic tableware?

SS: Sumanth is quite passionate about pottery and ceramics. Many reasons encouraged us to setup a sustainable and modern pottery unit in India. Pottery in the Indian subcontinent has been a well practised craft since 3000 B.C. Its lost its sheen due to lack of education and support. The existing ceramic tableware units in India are either relegated to Bone China, or mass produce stoneware in Khurja which is not of a very good quality. We see a huge demand for handmade stoneware products in India. And most businesses are either importing or relying on factories that do not have the design sensibilities of the international ceramic market.

That’s where Nugu Handmade comes into the picture. We customize products for both the hospitality as well as the retail segment. Our product line can be compared to international ceramic brands like Denby – UK, Heath Ceramics – USA, Mud Australia – Australia, to name a few, in terms of design and quality. Yet our products are sold at reasonable Indian prices.

MD: You specify that Nugu Handmade is for the design-conscious, health-conscious and environment-conscious buyers.

SS: Yes! we are design conscious as our existing collection is very global and contemporary in both design and function. We co-create personalized designs for our clients based on their preferences and needs. With our agile production methodology we have the flexibility and capability to execute different innovative forms, colors and textures in clay.

Then, health conscious because ceramic is the safest crockery to eat from. Our products are oven-friendly and can be used for healthy baking as well. High fired organic glazes ensure that all products are completely food safe. We do not use bright colors, as it is not food safe. Soon are set to launch a ceramic cookware collection especially for the health conscious. It would be a healthy alternative for the existing teflon coated cookware which is known to cause cancer. Is at its R&D stage and are looking for funding. As soon as we get funds within 6 months we will have the healthy affordable cookware range ready – especially designed for Indian cooking.

And lastly being environment conscious we create zero waste and very little carbon imprint. Our pottery is situated on a permaculture farm, where only natural resources are used for its sustenance. All the waste produced – water, clay etc. is recycled. And just for information stoneware products are eco-friendly and do not harm our habitat.

Being creative is not a hobby, its a way of life.

-Unknown

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