I was taught by Nirmala Patwardhan, an Indian master-potter. She herself was a disciple of the renowned British potters Bernard Leach and Ray Finch. From that first lesson on, despite the January cold and dampness of her studio, watching how a shapeless lump of clay could be centered on a kick-wheel and then formed into a cup, a bowl or a vase, I found myself hooked by the sheer magic involved in creating objects out of clay.
It's now been way over four decades since I started making pottery, initially as a hobby and then as a regular occupation, and I can honestly say that I still marvel at the process and the endless challenges it presents. There is the felicitous synergy when the clay's plasticity responds to the spinning of the wheel and the prodding of the potter's hand. There is something akin to alchemy in the development and application of glazes. There is the subtle control of the atmosphere inside the gas kiln on its pathway to an even firing. And when the kiln gods are smiling, the results may exceed one's wildest expectations.
Upon retiring from my job at the World Bank in the mid-1990s, I found a home in the ceramic studio of the Lee Arts Center in Arlington, VA. It is a well-run County facility which attracts a wide range of talented local potters and provides them with regular opportunities to attend workshops by top ceramicists from the US and abroad.
Making functional pottery for daily use and enjoyment gives me the greatest satisfaction. I take special pleasure whenever I see or hear of my hand-made pieces becoming a cherished part of the users' everyday living and surroundings. In addition to ensuring that my pieces fulfill their function in a comfortable and balanced way, I want them to be distinctive and aesthetically pleasing, and I find that the versatility of the medium provides wide scope for innovation in terms of shape, texture and surface decoration.
For instance, I'm inspired by the extraordinary range and beauty of natural leaves, and I love to incorporate them as part of surface decoration. I'm fascinated by the mysterious inner structure of clay that is revealed when the clay is stretched outward to its limit and shows up in delicate surface cracks often reminiscent of winterscapes. I delight in the intricate geometry of faceted bowls, vases and teapots, when the facets cut into the round of the thrown clay, creating elegant hexagonal or octagonal waves. I'm intrigued by the interplay of glazes during a firing when the copper in the glaze of a set of pots migrates to pots sitting next to them. I love to use clay platters as canvas to paint bamboo leaves in Japanese sumi-e style... The gamut is endless and it makes it virtually impossible to tire of making pots.
As a juried member of the Ceramic Guild and the Kiln Club of Washington, DC, I have been exhibiting my work until recently at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA, as well as holding regular year-end pottery-show-cum-fundraisers at my home on Capitol Hill in DC.