Suchitra Ravichandran’s Scorched Earth provides a livelihood for disadvantaged women, who help transform riverbed clay into beautiful pieces of wearable terracotta art
Where can you trace your passion for terracotta?
SR: I’ve been fascinated by clay as far as I can remember. As a child growing up in Mumbai, I would wait for the Ganpati festival every year, when impromptu workshops selling idols would crop up everywhere. A few men would be making smaller idols with clay, and I would make it a point of tarrying there on my way back from school. The raw clay was not for sale, so it was no less than a triumph when I could persuade them to sell me a small amount. This precious sticky lump would keep me occupied for many hours for as long as I could make it last.
As I grew up and academics took over my life, time for such indulgences became limited. As a student at Sir J.J. College of Architecture in Mumbai, I encountered a potter while taking part in the Malhar festival at St. Xavier’s College. Getting my hands dirty at the wheel triggered an ‘Aha’ moment and I was hooked for life. Unfortunately in those days, studio potters who taught were very few and those who did accept students ran their studios in the far flung suburbs and had timings that were unsuitable for a working professional.
It was in Sydney in 1998, when my first born was about a year and a half old, that my dream finally came true. I had the opportunity to learn pottery and hand building with Pim Hodge, a South African sculptor based in North Sydney. I was a hands-on mother by day and student by night. When we came back to India, I continued honing my skills. I attended a short certificate course in terracotta jewelry at NID, Bangalore Chapter, and became fascinated by all the detailing involved in making wearable art. The rest is history.
What is the story behind Scorched Earth?
SR: Apart from practicing architecture in Bangalore, I continued making terracotta jewelry on a regular basis. A lot of the pieces got gifted to family and friends. People suggested that I begin selling my work. This was in 2000, when most people had no inkling that clay could actually be used to making something as fine as jewelry. Clay was for bricks and maybe, murals. Only a handful of people who made terracotta could be found. At the same time, I felt that this was an opportunity that could benefit many women who were under served and struggling to earn a living. Lack of education and skills kept them from earning adequately to meet their and their families’ needs. But first, it was essential to test market feasibility.
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