Significance of Clay-Pottery

We live in turbulent times where we are constantly stressed due to work deadlines, financial goals, needs, desires, and competition. It is because of this haste and ambitions man has lost touch with his intrinsic nature and it yearns to be peaceful. The memories of natural body rhythms, functioning, and responses are coded in our DNA that has been passed on to man from primates. So walking, crafting, hunting, caring are coded in man’s genes and if he doesn’t abide by these activities, the natural instincts, and impulse of an evolving man, his life gets imbalanced. It is observed that humans have become more of a mental being and is functioning lesser at the physical level. Physical activities along with it’s mental engagement provide a kind of harmony and sense of well-being which is naturally provided by different craft activities. Centering clay on the wheel is a physically arduous and mentally demanding task that needs man’s total focus and application. When the lump of clay gets centered, the huge matrix of clay particles within it get aligned in concentric circular order and it brings about an “ahaa” moments that is equivalent to meditative peace or psychological centering Followed by this, the shaping of the centered lump into beautiful shapes requires constant vigilance and effort in which the potter forgets all his worries and anxieties and his soul is present to dialogue with clay and it’s memory. When a form evolves according to his taste he feels his restless energies transform the clay lump into a desired shape form and design. Hence pottery is being endorsed by health care workers and psychologists as an effective soothing tool and activity. When a clay artist pulls, punches, twists, breaks, tweaks pieces of clay into a sculpture, he performs a conscious activity in response to his imagination, where he sublimates his feelings, emotions into clay and is able to create an art piece full of life energy.


A story goes that humans used to keep their food in containers made from mud smeared basketry containers or pots. By a fateful accident when the basketry-container fell into a bonfire made for keeping them warm and protect them from wild animals, the containers hardened and it’s body became tough and resilient. It had basketry weave impressions upon them. After this accident, humans learned to craft clay into vessels -containers of different shapes, sizes, forms, and designs. Also over many centuries and in different regions of the world and civilizations, humans learned to adapt this plastic quality of clay into myriad uses and functions. He learned to model clay toys, craft clay jewelry, coil large vessels for storing food, make karma,gharha and surahi, and much more. They added spouts handles and foot to these clay vessels. These pots also got embued with human-like characteristics like having a neck, a lip, shoulder, waist, belly, and a foot. Humans also learned to embellish the pots with mud (slip) designs that were geometric as well as organic in nature. We have seen huge strides in man’s aesthetic expressions as his being evolved and he started depicting stories from his life. We can read and study these narratives in the forms of signs, symbols, images that tell us about those times in various ancient civilizations.
Archaeologists, paleontologists, historians, and scholars have studied the designs and images on old pots depicting life incidents to recreate narratives of those times. We learn about their social, secular, political, and cultural ethos. It helps us decipher the nature of those times and their realities.
So in lieu of its plasticity, long-lasting nature, and the element of “permanence “, pottery and clay craft can not only help us relax but also help us retain parts of the history of our times and tell our stories to the world long after we are dead and gone!

Ambar Agnihotri
Ceramic Artist, Designer, Teacher

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