Meet the claymasters: Curators of Clay

Curators of Clay handcrafts contemporary pottery pieces and crockery for restaurants around the country

Published - December 28, 2018 12:25 pm IST

“Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze have done more to popularise pottery than any master craftsman in the world,” laughs Rohit Kulkarni as the famous pottery scene from the movie Ghost comes up in our conversation. “If we got a rupee for every time that reference comes up we would be billionaires,” adds Rohit, who started Curators of Clay along with Bhairavi Naik in 2014.

Based out of Bhugaon village, on the outskirts of Pune, the brand makes handcrafted, high-fired ceramics. There are mugs, dinner plates, bowls, and tea pots that look like they belong to Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree . The pieces steer clear of bling: just simple, clean and contemporary design. “We are minimalist in our approach and influenced by Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetics — we’d like our work to be quietly compelling,” says Rohit, adding, with a grin, “Our work is sober; we are not!”

Their Instagram page is teeming with posts of almost everything they make: lidded casseroles, sake carafes, pitchers, hand-rolled platters — some plated with golden yellow fries, pita pockets, chocolate cookies!

“We craft work for some of the country’s best restaurants and chefs. So we are continually swamped with projects,” says Rohit listing out some of the restaurants he’s worked with: Masque and Typhoon Shelter (Mumbai), Arth and Zen Cafe (Mumbai and Pune), Third Wave Coffee Roasters (Bengaluru), Cafe 108 (Pune)... They have recently launched an online store that they update at the end of every month.

It was a desire to sculpt something bizarre and otherworldly that got Rohit interested in working with clay. “I wanted to sculpt gargoyles in college. That never happened. But the fascination with clay remained,” says Rohit, who trained with Vinod Dubey in Mumbai and then went on to do a course at Andretta Pottery in Himachal Pradesh. Bhairavi started learning this craft in Mumbai and then self-taught herself.

“We make our own clay, craft each piece ourselves, make our own glazes and fire in gas-fuelled kilns that we designed ourselves. We high-fire our work to above 1,220 degrees Celsius,” Rohit says, adding, “Our work is either hand-thrown on the wheel or crafted by hand, using time-honoured processes of handmade ceramics.” And the result is handcrafted, chic, functional ceramics.

Bhairavi is the glaze master, says Rohit. She recently developed a beautiful pink and a lovely burgundy one. Though they can make glaze in any colour, they are particularly drawn to natural shades and largely use blue, green, white and grey. The three-member unit (Amey joined them last year) does everything itself. Depending on deadlines, each of them makes around 50 to 80 pieces a day, sometimes even more.

Curators of Clay is available on curatorsofclay.

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