Monday, 8 February 2016

Progress Report -Work in the Studio

After the MP’s visit  yesterday we got a couple of articles in the newspaper and this brought quite a few visitors to the studio including some policemen and someone from the central intelligence!!

The clay situation is coming under control- all the possible sources of clay at the studio have been tapped including the clay that was slaking and was currently in slip form. The work is growing steadily in the studio.

Naidee had labeled the three people working at the Maihar House studio as “Team A “and the group working at Art Ichol as “Team B”.  It’s a pity we are not able to  all work at the same place but we have established a wonderful routine of having breakfast together every morning and ending up with dinner and a slide presentation of one artist every evening. 

At the Maihar House studio works are growing taller and every table occupied with work in progress. Music and  a creative  harmony  fills the studio. Naidee’s large Shiva is sculpture almost complete and looking fantastic, Alvin’s two thrown and carved vessels are complete and drying and  Kathy’s pierced Bucket Vessel is finished and slowly drying under plastic. The frenzied energy  of making is subsiding and the  studio full as the time allotted for making wet work comes to an end.

At Art Ichol Sandy was building two large forms, while Thiebaut was rolling tubes that fitted one over the other and Madhvi was busy building with her clay cow dung chips. Jacques had to keep an eye on two ends of the campus as he supervised the brick makers making 4000 bricks for him while he built his form with coils.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

2nd Feb

What an unexpected event that our group was greeted by a member of Parliament, Mr. Ganesh Singh, who welcomed us with a gift of Angavastra (scarf) to his constituency and Art Ichol. Lots of commotion as the press took pictures and clamored for interviews. The MP promised to come back for the fiber kiln firing when Thiebaut told him it was part firing, part performance- so the pressure is on!

After a delicious spread of street food made fresh for us with Golgappas, Chole chat, Pau Bhaji and Dosas we struggled to settle down and work. 

In the studio we had a lot of challenges- the clay was being consumed faster than we imagined, the plasticity of the clay with so much grog was compromised and building the forms was very slow. Alvin had managed to throw and carve a large form with more plastic clay and Naidee had given up working with earthenware but was managing to build with the stoneware clay at a fairly fast speed. 

By the end of the day much work was done, Kathy had thrown some forms and Thiebaut and Sandy made a few sections of their own works. Jacques had resolved his idea of the brick shrine and started his other large work. Madhvi had a mould made the cow dung and had settled into building with her clay- cow chips.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

1st Feb
All is happening according to plan so far, the assistant at the studio Milan Singh has close to 2 tons of clay ready, the glazes have been tested on raw clay and few slips have been made. We have the metal frame fabricated for a kiln Thiebaut has designed and over 300 porcelain buttons are ready for it. There is plenty of wood and the bricks are stacked up. But will all go according to schedule?

We start the day with a meeting trying to sort out the many unanswered practical questions: How much clay will each of us want? What were we thinking of making and will we have enough kiln space? How are we going to dry and fire the works? What solutions will we find to make and finish our works- glazes or slips? 

By the end of the day many things had sorted themselves out Kathy, Naidee and Alvin decided to work at the Maihar studio  and navigated the issue of only one functional wheel and the non-plastic clay. Thiebaut, Jacques, Sandy and Madhvi  worked at the Art Ichol space, 7kms away and had figured out how to dry the excessively wet clay and mix rice husk into it to start building. Jacques had spoken to the local brick-layers for his project and Madhvi had gathered the cow dung chips and hay that she needed. We definitely do not have enough clay or kiln space but work has begun! 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

31st Jan

We arrived in Maihar after a 15 hour overnight journey on the train from Delhi enjoying an Indian picnic dinner in our cozy private compartment  which was outfitted with bunk beds. The journey was well spent getting to know each other and I could see that the group chemistry and dynamics was going to be great!

Our host in  Maihar Ambica Beri welcomed us to her beautiful compound and  her hospitality made us feel instantly at home.  The Maihar house gardens and studio are lovely  and nearby Art Ichol as breath taking as the pictures we had seen.

After the morning of looking around the facilities, we decided to drive to the Khajuraho temples, known for their explicit erotic stone carving.  It ended up being a 2.5hr drive each way on a very bumpy road. It was ambitious for our first day but the temples were inspiring and they more than made up for the terrible guide we got.

Friday, 29 January 2016

The time for the residency has arrived and the seven artists from seven countries are coming in from different parts of the world to meet up in India!!  It was almost 8 months ago when I first started to think about putting this residency together. There were so many things to think of, most importantly the central theme.
For quite some time now I have been exploring scale in clay. Bringing a group of eminent artists together who all work in considerable scale is the realisation of a long held wish.  However, many unknowns lie ahead – the space, the environment, the material, firing possibilities, the group dynamic, chemistry etc.  It is out of these unknowns that the theme of the residency has evolved -Exploration, Experimentation and Examination. 

We are all gathering in New Delhi before we take the train to Maihar in Madhya Pradesh. Thiebaut Chague arrived from France this morning and he and I had the opportunity to partake of the current art season in New Delhi. We went to the National Gallery of Modern Art to see the show of Sudarshan Shetty titled “Shoonya Ghar”- the “Empty House”. The exhibition is a collection of film, sculptural installation and photographic images set in the Indo-Sarasenic architecture of the NGMA. What we enjoyed the most was the way Shetty used his material- the deconstruction of an architectural space and a reconstruction of a space that evoked memory. 

For more info:

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Text Box: I first met Ambika Beri a few years ago, which was when she invited me to curate an international ceramic residency at Art Ichol in Maihar, India.  It was an exciting idea but I was nervous to take it on. I knew it would be a lot of work and at that time I had a lot on my plate.  As the idea brewed in my head I knew I had to do it, and I really wanted to go to Art Ichol myself!! The residency studio not only looks fabulous but it is situated right in the heart of the country in Madhya Pradesh.

I have always wanted to go to Madhya Pradesh, known for its beautiful Jain and Hindu temples. The famous Khajuraho temple renowned for erotic carvings is located only an hour and a half away from Art Ichol!

Additionally, the national parks of Bandhavgarh and Panna, the home of the great Bengal tiger are also in the vicinity.

As I was working towards putting the residency together, I came across an article in the paper on Maihar. That’s when I realized it was also the home of the well-known Ustad Allaudin Khan the greatest Hindustani Classical music teacher of the 20th century, who taught musicians such a Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan. Below are a couple of  links for the music and a 1963 film.

Ustad Allaudin Khan was the court musician in the last century to the Maharaja of Maihar. He composed several Ragas and laid the stones for the foundation of the great Maihar Gharana. But all these are side stories.  What we are really going to Madhya Pradesh for is the residency.

I have often been asked, “What is a residency”?  Having had the opportunity to do several residencies in Japan, China, Korea and India I like to describe it as a retreat and a time to explore and experiment. It is a much-needed time away from ones usual environment and responsibilities to focus and concentrate. A time for reflection on one owns own journey and a time of interaction with other artists, a time to question, debate and push ones practice further. More often than not a residency would definitely affect the artists practice in one way or another.

Through this blog I hope to capture some of the experiences we are all about to embark on. A journey filled with adventure, excitement as well as all our trials and tribulations.

Thursday, 14 January 2016



The residency takes place from Jan 31st to Feb 12th 2016 at Art Ichol In Maihar. Art Ichol is a Gallery Sanskriti (Kolkata) initiative under the direction of Ambica Beri. They host art retreats at the Maihar House and Art Ichol, large permanent facilities specifically designed for artist residencies since 2014The current international residency curated by artist Madhvi Subrahmanian, consists of 7 artists from 7 countries countries (most of whom have never visited India or met each other) . This  residency provides a platform to explore, experiment and examine contemporary practices within large scale ceramic practices. It is is an opportunity for artists from different countries to interact and question, debate and deliberate , experiment and explore new ideas and concepts - individually and collaboratively.

The residency artists are:


As an object maker, Alvin produces ceramic objects that attempt to present a subjective interpretation of the existential dilemma of our current age. He has been working with clay for more than two decades and has exhibited in several group and solo shows worldwide. His works are in several collections and have won prestigious awards like the 4th Global Art Movement Competition in Toyota City Museum, Japan and Golden Teapot Competition in Ying Ge Museum, Taiwan.


Having studied ceramics in Geneva, Jacques worked in Swiss Cooperation, Rwanda from 1984-1986. His work deals with questions of inter-cultural exchanges, “back to origin” of the ceramic's technology, “ earth scale” and “site spirit”. From 1995-2014, Jacques has served as the chair of the ceramics department, Vevey’s Applied Art School. Since 1999, Jacques has engaged in several projects in China. Currently he is the President of the International Academy of Ceramics.


Kathy received her BFA from California State University Long Beach. She is known for designer tableware and architectural wall works. Exhibited internationally her work is included in private and public collections such as Renwick Gallery/Smithsonian Institute, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Taipei Museum of Fine Arts and SC Johnson Collection. She is a recent recipient of the US Dept of State Professional Fellows Cultural Exchange Grant working with Tibetan potters in Yunnan, China.


Having trained at Golden Bridge Pottery, Pondicherry with Ray Meeker and Deborah Smith, she received her Masters In Fine Arts under Peter Beasecker at SMU, Dallas Texas. She is known for her large-scale works and installations dealing with seeds, pods and ideas of movement and migration. She has exhibited internationally and her works are in several public and private collections such as Mumbai airport (India), Lohia Art Foundation (Indonesia), FuLe International Ceramic Museum (China), and Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park (Japan).


Soon after graduating in painting from Chiangmai University Naidee moved into making terracotta sculptures. As a Buddhist he seeks to express child-like purity, spontaneity, fullness and happiness in his work. Naidee has been invited to international festivals and conferences to demonstrate and show his work including the Gyeonggi International Ceramics Biennale in Incheon, Korea and the International Ceramics Festival, Aberystwyth UK . His work is in several private and public collections all over the world.


Since training in Japan over 40 years ago Sandy Brown has become one of the world’s leading ceramic artists. She exhibits all over the world and her work is held in over 40 museum collections internationally. She is credited with being an influential force, known for her exuberance, freedom and celebration of colour.  She makes pots for use, large sculptures, and her latest project is her most ambitious to date: a full size ceramic Temple, a building!


Began his career in 1976, training in France, Belgium and England under stalwarts like Michael Cardew and Richard Batterham. Thiébaut is known for his monumental and organic wood fired sculptures. In 2009 he built a giant clay sculpture, which he fired in the courtyards of the Victoria & Albert Museum, UK. Examples of his work can be found in many public collections including the V&A museum UK, Grassi Museum Leipzig, Germany and Musée de Sèvres Paris, France.