The earthy charm of terracotta

Simple yet stylish Radhamany at her workshop, 'Terra Craft', and some of the jewellery pieces designed by her. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat   | Photo Credit: Photo : Thulasi Kakkat

Radhamany K. T. is a jewellery designer. She designs jimikis aka jhumkas, bangles, bracelets, pendants… the entire works. And she, along with her husband Jayan, plans to deck up a bride in jewellery designed by her.

Bet you are thinking, “Genius! Isn’t that what every jewellery shop and jewellery designer is doing?” Did we say terracotta jewellery? We didn’t? Yes, the jewellery is made of terracotta. As wife of pottery artist Jayan V.K., she has been around clay and pottery for a long time. But it is only of late that she developed an interest in crafting jewellery out of clay.

Potter's wheel

Jayan looks on indulgently as his wife talks about how she designs jewellery, which, by the way, is done on the potter’s wheel. It was a worker at Jayan’s terracotta unit, ‘Terra Craft’ in Eroor, who suggested using the potter’s wheel to make the jhumka’s dome.

How can a tiny jhumka be made on a giant potter’s wheel? “It is tough but not impossible,” says Jayan. However much he explains it, one does not get the ‘its easy’ part. While certain pieces are made on the potter’s wheel, the rest are handcrafted. And there are handmade pieces too. But as Radha points out, handmade jhumkas lack the finesse of those fashioned on the potter’s wheel, but the imperfection makes the pair charming.

Great demand

“Much before this terracotta jewellery trend started I had designed a few pieces of jewellery. Back then there were few takers, today the scene is different,” Jayan says. After a while, he stopped. It is only now Radha has found the time (and the inclination) to get down to jewellery making, she says. “Our boys were small, they needed looking after. I couldn’t just leave them and do this. Today they are grown up and I have the time,” Radha says.

Rather than paint the pieces, she has let the natural tones of the clay be. So, instead of the garish yellows, screaming blues and blinding pinks there are the warm tones of baked clay. Some pale, some vivid and some black too – “these shades vary because clay from different places has different colours,” Jayan says. So there is variety too.

Radha adds, “that is not to say I don’t paint them. I do. Some clients want the jewellery to match their outfits.” Her two plastic boxes, where she keeps her jewellery, are full of trinkets. Half-made earrings, round clay beads jostle for space with flat beads, some have designs on them and others are smooth globules. She has a couple of assistants who help her.

“There is a notion that clay is heavy. Here try this one…” Jayan offers a jhumka. It is as heavy or light as any piece of costume jewellery made of fibre or metal. Not only is it not heavy, it even tinkles when it moves making it livelier than plastic trinkets.

Sturdy clay

And then there is the other notion, Radha adds, that these pieces made of clay will dissolve if they get into contact with water. Jayan explains as a teacher would, “these are fired, with my terracotta pottery, at temperatures between 550 and 900 degree centigrade. This is not raw clay.” That means they will not dissolve in water. How about breaking? It is terracotta and one has to be a bit careful, Jayan says. The prices for these start at Rs.50.

Coming back to dressing up the bride, Jayan and Radha say, it is something they want to do in the near future. But what bride would be willing to let go of her swathed- in-gold dream? “We have!” Going by the direction gold prices are taking, it seems like one gem of an idea. Contact: 9846398050

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 2:02:48 AM |

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