Pottery in the Indian subcontinent has an ancient history that can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilisation.
It continues to be one of the most popular and visible forms of indigenous design.
While earthenware and terracotta – be it the humble ‘kulhar’ to the timeless ‘matka’ (earthen pot) - continue to be part of our day-to-day life across the country, studio pottery largely led by tableware has found a significant place in the plastic arts in post-independence India. Devyani Smith is one of the emerging names within this studio pottery landscape in India.
Her forms and textures carry the unmistakable influence of the mountain terrain, which she herself hails from and so loves. The appeal of Devyani’s work also lies in the playfulness of imagination in her forms; paperweights that imitate the smooth pebbles found in mountain riverbeds to colours and glazes that transport you into the stillness of a forest. Her fossil-like illustrations on clay created with her signature use of slip and sgraffito ('to scratch' in Italian) demonstrate a style that is at once both traditional and contemporary, but uniquely her own.
Mostly crafted on the pottery wheel, Devyani’s work sees the perfect coming together of form and function, motion and stillness. Her collection, Aether, showcases her love for two forms in particular – bowls and bottles. “In pottery, we work with all four elements – earth, water, air and fire. A piece goes through all four to become ceramic - the fifth element!” says Devyani.
Her experiments with the functional no doubt carry a strong artistic vocabulary complete with deliberate play of imperfections which are inherent to that which is handcrafted. Her work also strikes a balance between being recognizable without being definitive; it merges with anything that sits around it making it the perfect addition to any home or conversation.
Try delving a little deeper into the mind of this shy ceramicist, and her answer reflects the meditative joy she derives from her craft, “Throw Turn - Decorate - Dry - Bisque Fire - Glaze - Load – Glaze – Fire!”
DEVYANI SMITH – THE ARTIST
Devyani, a former media professional, started her journey into the world of ceramics when she took some basic lessons in wheel-thrown pottery. In 2014 she worked as a volunteer in Auroville for about three months and was part of the Bharat Bhawan’s annual ceramic camp in Bhopal. After training with Zakharia Galwani for 3 years in his Dharavi Studio, she has now set up her own brand ‘Devyani Smith Pottery’. She currently lives and works in Mumbai.