The plan -

To work a full day today to ensure I can finish the piece by the end of the following day. After that my time is up with Naba and the team as I’m due to start working with Dolon Kundu, a female potter who has developed her own style out of the traditional Kumartuli techniques, based in a different district of Kolkata.

In the morning I will join the cast of Annapurna’s head, smooth out the imperfections across the body and add on the hands and feet. Lunch is taken 1-3 pm across the workshops of the district. During this time the piece will be left to dry out in the heat of the sun. 

The afternoon will be for learning to apply the fabric layer, in my view the critical, hidden secret of this unfired process. Drying again overnight, tomorrow is set aside for painting. The fabric sari and adornments will be added in my absence in the following days and I will then collect the finished goddess in her new packing crate next Sunday.

The reality - 

We arrive to discover that the correct head had now been fixed to my figure. Dada demonstrates the technique for making the fingers, rolling small sausages against a flat piece of stone – relying on the pressure of the stone and not your hand – and then manipulating this in your figure-tips to create form, adding a curved nail with a wooden tool. The hands are made oversized. The finger he creates by way of demonstration, which I assume is the thumb, turns out to be the pinkie. Making the fingers is a satisfying job, though Dada lets me struggle with the wetness of the clay for a whole set of five fingers before changing the clay to a dryer mix and making me do it again. It’s useful to have gone through this and I wonder how much the mistake of giving me the wrong clay was done with intention.

Extra clay is kept on the length of each finger. Once ready, the four fingers are fused together by squashing this extra clay into the start of a palm. Additional moist clay is similarly added to the wrists on the main form before the hand is added to the back of this. Then, more clay to create the correct palm shape. The thumb is added and then extra clay to bulk out the area from palm running across the wrist. The fingers are manipulated into their correct position. The right hand will hold a spoon and the left, a bowl of rice. Toes and feet are created with a similar technique.


Monday 16th March 2020

British Council and City of Culture 2021, Coventry - International Changemakers, 2020