Monday, January 05, 2004

Potterin' About - An Interview with Manu Anant

 “What I miss most about Chennai is the sea. I can sometimes hear it in my dreams.” says Manu Anant, relaxing in his parents’ home in Kottivakkam. The home is truly an extension of the people who live in it, including Manu, who left Chennai to join the National Institute of Design at Ahmedabad. He is based in New Delhi and was recently in Chennai to showcase the products from his company, Clayful, that he partners with Harkishan, a renowned craft potter.

“Clayful has taken some time to get off the ground”, he admits candidly. “ Delhi is a very difficult city to work in and poses many challenges. What should have taken a year anywhere else, has taken over four years in Delhi. However, that’s where I am because I found a world class potter in Harkishan. Do you know the most amazing thing about him? It’s the ease with which he can throw a minute pot as well as one that’s five feet high, on the wheel.”

Clayful’s latest range of products are made of terracotta – little vases, bigger ones, cups, bowls etc. - some are fully glazed and some partial, to enable the glaze to offset the earthy terracotta shade. As for usage, the containers are fired at a higher temperature (up to 1100 degree centigrade) so that they are safe to use in ovens and microwave ovens.

Getting back to the topic of Chennai, Manu did his schooling at KFI with a five-year stint in between at Vidya Mandir before he left for NID. He admits to having been a dreamer, and the freedom at KFI did prepare him for NID, which can be a rude shock to those used to a regimented education. On the question of how he came to choose design as a vocation, he says, “Design was a natural choice. Besides, my father used to be an artist and my mother is an architect. I suppose you could say that design gives one the choice to change things which, a lot of other professions don’t.”
Ceramics became a specialisation at NID for Manu, who feels that unlike other forms of design, where one goes through the process of making prototypes and it takes years for a product to finally emerge, one can see the end result in ceramics, animation and furniture in relatively far lesser time. “In Ceramics, for instance, you can get a very high quality prototype but in other forms, there’s only a semblance of what the product will ultimately look like.” he says. “If you come to think of it, craft and design are truly the Indian legacies. We have the potential to be world-class, if only we nurture craft by providing it sustainable technology and a world-wide platform to be showcased. So, in essence, we are not talking about reviving crafts, we’re really trying to use it in a more contemporary context.”

Clayful’s terracotta products are available primarily at Delhi and Chennai and are likely to be showcased in an exhibition at Mumbai later this year. At Chennai, they are available at Contemporary Arts and Crafts, The Design Store and Pot Hole.

Pic: Third Eye
An edited version of this article was published in Madras Plus in 2004.

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