Jasjyot Singh Hans X Curators of Clay
Instagram had everything to do with how we discovered illustrator Jasjyot Singh Hans and ceramic studio Curators of Clay. Instagram also had everything to do with one of our favourite collaborations this year. Instagram is how we realised they were in town during the same weekend we were. We spent a lazy Sunday at Curators of Clay studio on Pune’s lush green outskirts drinking chai made in a kiln, hanging out with founders/potters Rohit Kulkarni and Bhairavi Naik, Jasjyot, and their friends and watching painted ladies dry.
Hi Jasjyot, Rohit. Tell me about yourselves and the studio.
I'm a freelance illustrator from Delhi, currently enrolled in an MFA program in Illustration at Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore. I'm unendingly inspired by an explosive neon mix of fashion, music and pop culture. My personal work chronicles around themes of body image, sexuality and self love.
Curators of Clay is ceramic studio owned and run by two potters, Bhairavi Naik and yours truly. We handcraft high fired ceramics with a focus on beautiful, functional tableware. We like to call our work art for everyday use and our vision is pretty simple - we want our work to be loved, cherished and more than anything else, used and enjoyed every day. That's what excites us as potters.
Bhairavi and I co-founded the studio two years ago purely ‘cause we both wanted to turn our respective passion for ceramics into a profession and we were rather confident that there's a discerning market out there, a very niche clientele which would appreciate and want our kind of beautiful handmade ceramics. Everything is handcrafted from start to finish by either Bhairavi or me, at least for now we do not have any artisans working for us. We make our own clay, we have our own beautiful stoneware clay composition, handcraft everything and fire using our own glazes in our own gas-fired kiln at our studio based in Bhugaon village on the outskirts of Pune.
How did you guys end up connecting and how did the collaboration come about?
Essentially I loved Jasjyot's work on Instagram. I was bored and not interested in seeing emaciated nude women, drawn or otherwise, with no Indian references of any sort. So I fell in love with J's big beautiful Indian women instantly. I asked him how much would it cost me to acquire one of his drawings, and he was super kind enough to say we could barter our work! So I sent him some large tumblers for lassi and he sent me one of his gorgeous nudes. Except the day the tumblers reached his house, J had flown off to Baltimore for greater glory. Six months later he returned to the homeland and to the lassi tumblers - again, he was sweet and generous with his praise for the work, and we spoke about doing something together. All on Instagram.
I urged him to book his air tickets and surprise, surprise, he did. He flew into Pune for two days, didn't mind staying at my house with dogs, cats and a mother, worked like a slave at the studio and cranked out 17 gorgeous pieces of work using our functional ceramics as canvases. I think I wanted to collaborate cause I am in love with J's beautiful sexy women. I've no clue why J agreed. You'll have to ask him.
When I got back over summer, drinking iced coffee in a Curators of Clay tumbler had become a ritual. Rohit suggested I come over for a couple of days and work on a series of jugs and jars. I loved the forms he had in mind for my drawings, and they seemed like the perfect canvas for the women I draw, so we decided to make it happen!
I have always loved handmade ceramics, and have secretly wanted my work to exist on some of them. I have worked on merchandise with other brands and it's always a rewarding feeling to see my work live on different products. But it has always been about making multiples of a single design. Painting on handmade ceramics was a way for me to think of them as one-of-a-kind art objects.
What did you end up creating together?
When we spoke about the collaboration, both Bhairavi and I instantly felt that J's illustrations would look stunning on a collection of jars. That form just seemed a perfect match for his kind of drawings. And so that's what we crafted for him to use as canvases. Beautiful, curvy ceramic jars. All handcrafted by either Bhairavi or me. All thrown on the wheel and made of our own stoneware clay. And just to make him work a little more, we also gave him a couple of jugs and teapots to illustrate.
There's about 16 pieces in all, that I painted over 2 days. I would have loved to paint all of them (Bhairavi and Rohit had made so many!) but alas, I ran out of time! But I do see this turn into a summer ritual for me to work with Curators of Clay every year and also escape the sultry Delhi summer! Most of the pieces were fired, and some of them were greenware which meant the clay was not fired yet, so I had to be careful about handling them while I painted (I did break a jug spout in the process). Though most of the work on the pieces was additive (where I simply painted with lines on the clay), the greenware pieces allowed me to dip the whole piece in paint, and scratch off the clay surface to create the final artwork as a 'negative'. The final outcome was extremely rewarding!
All the pieces are made of stoneware clay with the illustrations done using stains and coloured clay slips. The bisqued ones were the majority of the lot, that means we'd made them and bisqued them, that is fired them in the kiln to 900°C, which is relatively tame, when you consider that the final pieces - post J hand drawing on them were fired to a whopping 1220°C (cone 6 in ceramic parlance)! Bisque-ware made the ceramics easier to draw on, since they wouldn't break as easily. The jugs and teapots have been glazed on the inside, rendering them absolutely functional!
As for the content, I think it was a unanimous decision. I started drawing the women I draw as a way to come to terms with my own body image, and have a way to celebrate the human form in ways the popular media around me wasn't doing. We're constantly bombarded with images of the fetishised female form and asked to comply with a singular idea of beauty. The women I draw allowed me to break away from the normative ideas of what is considered beautiful. It's funny because people keep asking me why I draw big women. I just draw women. It's women I love, and women I see around me, each one beautiful! When I put the drawings on Instagram, the hashtags gave me a way to index my work. To me, #BigIsBeautiful and #BadaBehtarHai represent inclusion and acceptance in a fun, cheeky way.
Are the pieces for sale? How can people purchase them?
We'd love to do a proper gallery show, but if that doesn't happen, then we'll be happy to make everything available online - we'll be putting pictures up on our facebook page as well as our individual instagram accounts. Plus, if someone wants to come see the work, they're more than welcome, all they need to do is get in touch with us through facebook or instagram.
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