I was amazed to see the marvelous creations out of clay, I was stuck, and the visit to Clayfingers gave me a new definition about clay, clay modeling, pottery and studio pottery. A visit to Clayfingers was always on the bucket list; I don't know why I took so long to visit this temple of clay creativity. It was a beautiful Saturday evening when we decided to the visit Clayfingers, all we knew about Clayfingers was that it was something to do with clay and fingers, being an unexpected visit I wasn't even bothered to google the name until I was stuck finding the route to reach the place. A relaxed drive through the highway from Aluva to Thrissur, you need to take a left turn at Pudhukad, it is en-route from Pudhukad to Urakam. The gates were open welcoming us to Clayfingers Pottery.
On arrival we were received with welcoming smiles, the fish pond attracted us, where we met a couple at the Gazebo there. Mrs. Haseena and Mr. Suresh are the proud masters of Clayfingers, and the conversation sparked about the fish and fish pond, where my mother started to explain about the fish pond experiences we had at our home. We slowly moved to an area where the pottery products of Clayfingers were showcased, Haseena was explaining us about Clayfingers and Studio Pottery. Haseena is a Studio Potter, and Suresh is into advertising and photography, both of them are based in Dubai and come back to Clayfingers very frequent. I believe their heart is here at Clayfingers Thrissur. They bought this large tile factory ten years back, and today it is a known center of clay art and learning.
Clay pottery has been in association since the evolution of human civilizations. To store water, to cook, storage, and to serve food, Clay has been an integral part of the human race and civilization. It was that clay was the most common thing he could find around, and modify it to his requirements and needs. In this part of the country clay pottery was a dying tradition, where pottery lost its demand and the market was slowly diminishing. Potters had to leave their culture and move to other industries nothing to do with pottery; women were left to starvation and even prostitution to continue and sustain life. Off late there have been some unofficial movements happening to revive the tradition and culture of the pottery tribes, and one such personality is KB Jinan, who led this movement in the forefront. The general market replaced the household clay utensils to aluminum and other metals. There had to be an application of disruptive minds, and a sense of social obligation to find a solution to revive an industry that had reached the verge of extinction. Modern shapes and design were experimented and introduced that lead to the revival of a lost tradition. The product range extended to cups, storage utensils, show pieces, mural tiles, clay models, and further as an addition, even different clay have been introduced including bone china. What they did was, induce contemporary designs and methods to connect to the modern day market. Creativity and art have its value which gave way to the revival of these tribes and tradition.
Pudukad has a tradition of clay and terracotta, and location of Clayfingers is in the heart of this culture. Ten years back Haseena and Suresh bought this old tile factory which was known as Aravind tile company. Even today not many here know about Clayfingers, it is more to be associated with the name Aravind. Clayfingers is more about learning the art of pottery. The elegant space of around fifteen thousand Sq. Ft. of studio space is almost like a playground to experiment. There are internships, workshops, short-term programs where you can build up a career in studio pottery. It is not as easy as you think, it is quite an expensive work. For example, the firing place or the kiln here would take around 3 tons of firewood up to 3 days for the firing process to complete, and they do it once in four months. Now that is just the technical stuff that I was mentioning, before that there is a lot of imagination, skill, patience and perseverance involved in a finished work of art. So all these elements make Studio pottery expensive, and there is alway a buyer for it. You must visit Clayfingers for the art lover in you. I was kind of amazed to see some of the works displayed here. There is a series of art with clay about the Dandi march by Gandhi; it was something beyond than I could imagine.
For my mother it was almost like history coming back at Clayfingers, she was narrating about her friends, Larry and Perin, a couple who resigned from their creative professions and started a pottery studio at Alibag in Mumbai. She kept describing that Perin used to say, pottery is like Yoga, you need to be gentle and slow with you hands and fingers. Both of them fell in love during their studies at JJ institute of arts in Mumbai. They had named their venture as GoodEarth Pottery, and they used to make branded pottery for my dad's small firm based in Mumbai.
You can stay at Clayfingers in their aesthetically designed "Art Cottages." When Hassena and Suresh bought the Aravind tile factory, a lot of old tiles came along with the purchase, they used all of these old tiles to built these four "Art Cottages," not wasting even the last bit of the leftover old roof tiles. Today the word tourism is taking new shapes and dimensions, and I personally believe that tourism should always be a bonus element. A scenario where you do something for yourself which remains the primary business, it could be farming, making products out of bamboo, a bakery, growing orchids, or in this case Studio pottery. And when travelers and guests come to see, experience and learn something out of what you do, it becomes a win-win situation in all terms, otherwise called as experiential travel in its pure form. Whatever income you get from these is always a bonus, which will slowly help in growing the business. What we see about tourism these days would be, where the experiences are artificially created for guests to come and see, how deep is it depends on how these experiences are organized. Slowly things are changing as traveler's perspective, and expectations are changing, and a niche would gradually become a mainstream model, at least I believe in that. At Clayfingers, with these four "Art Cottages" they term it as art tourism, where guests could come stay in these "Art Cottages" learn an art form, return home and practice it. I was in a moment of surprise to see works of some guests who have tried their hands on clay for the first time. It is a skill where you allow your fingers to shape in clay about what you have in mind. Apart from all of these, they grow their requirement of spices, fruits, and vegetable on their land, except rice I believe. I think I should be going back for one of their day workshops to explore what I could do with a handful of clay :-)
Kudos to Haseena and Suresh for venturing into something like Clayfingers, your passion is turning out to be an experience for other people to learn something new. Thanks to Ans and Lathachechi for taking us around your world of pottery. The way you have given access to common man to Studio Pottery is awesome. I hope you grow into something beyond, exploring the world of creativity.
This is a speciality lodging option in Kerala where you learn something new, that way there is a lot of emphasis to Experiential holidays in Kerala by Green Earth Trails for Clayfingers. These experiences are part of some of our customized holidays program that has an element of learning and earning something new.