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Beautiful earth

Arun Kumar's clay artefacts are tempting buys

BEAUTIFUL FIGURES in clay, with intricate designs and arresting colours, capture the eye as you walk past the display counters. Little figurines, attractive penholders, unique wall hangings reflecting amazing creativity, tall vases embossed with various images and figures, corner pieces shaped like musical instruments vie for attention in a poetic display.

Attractive thorans, oil lamps painted to appear more like brass, urulis that almost match the bell metal originals in their beauty, colourful bells on a string that seem more metal than clay, cunningly designed diyas appropriately named as magic lamps, picturesque table lamps designed from vases, lifelike animal figures, and miniature Ganeshas that would give deftness a new meaning, entice the shopper.

Eye for art

The architect behind these captivating pieces is Arun Kumar, proprietor of Varna, The Clay Arts. Though not an artist by profession, he certainly has an eye for art and a feel for contours.

Owning a retail shop that sold gift items, Arun came upon pottery by chance. Some three ago, during the Ganesha festival, he displayed on a table outside his shop Ganeshas sourced from Bengal. They were snapped up no sooner than they were placed. He decided to follow this with attractive diyas from the same source during Diwali. Success again.

Thus started his long courtship with pottery. He identified various sources in Karnataka, Pondicherry, Orissa, Assam, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh as well as Bengal and, using his imagination, started designing his wares. On most occasions, he would sit with the artist and, inspiring each other, they would come out with imaginative pieces. These pieces came to him raw, without paint. He then added his colourful touch to them.

Says Arun: "Wherever I go, whatever I read, I'm always looking for inspiration for new designs." The last few months he has been trying his hand at murals for buildings along with artists from the Chitrakala Parishath. But this doesn't appear to interest him as "concentrating on smaller pieces gives greater satisfaction as it reaches a wider customer base".

His sources are not confined to professionals alone. With more than 50 per cent of his products sourced from Karnataka, "some of them are housewives, not trained professionals. They supply ear rings, necklaces and such other small artefacts made from pottery." But are all his products handmade?

"Some are moulded varieties. But here too, I design the moulds in most cases. But most of them are handmade where the dexterity of the artist is displayed."

Arun is not into this alone. "My wife gives me active support and adds her creative touch to the way a particular piece is to be painted. The colours lent to a figure are most important as this totally transforms even an ordinary piece into something unique."

Looking at the varieties displayed in each theme, where each speaks of some variation, one wonders aloud at the extent of creativity and skills exhibited.

A thousand varieties

"I have close to a thousand varieties in diyas alone. Ideas come to me from unexpected sources, at unexpected times and I simply use them in my designs."

The Dashavathara displayed in the form of Ganeshas using appropriate colours to differentiate and depict the 10 avatars certainly calls for inspiration.

How expensive are they?

"You have to judge the price based on the work and creativity involved in each piece. We have products starting from Rs. 50 to Rs. 5,000 depending on the work involved."

Arun's products are currently on display at the Buckingham Palace Shopping Mall Exhibition at Palace grounds till the September 5.

His retail showroom is in Malleswaram at 97/3, East Park Road, 9th Cross, Sampige Road. He can be contacted on 23318052.


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