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From an article in 'INSIDE OUTSIDE', Feb 2000. 
Text by Sylvia Kerkar; photographs by Adil Writer.



DOING IT HIS WAY
Adil Writer is lending a fresh outlook to architecture and pottery in Pondicherry.


Sitting at a potter's wheel at the Golden Bridge Pottery (GBP), one often hears a lively voice coming from one of the students (usually a girl). 'You've got to take a look at what Adil's made!' Over the last two years, Adil Writer has grabbed the attention of his fellowAdil students and teachers at the Golden Bridge Pottery, at times in amazement, sometimes in amusement and often, even technical appreciation. When I first watched him at work, turning clay into little creatures, attachments or what seemed to me like perfectly 'thrown' pots, I felt intimidated; and as I toiled with the formidable task of 'pulling' an even walled cylinder (an essential basic in wheel thrown pottery), like most beginners I wondered when I would get there. Later as my feel for the material grew, I found myself going back to Adil; his approach and attitude to pottery seemed lively, spontaneous and full of surprises.

Adil Writer is a Mumbai-based architect and interior designer who took a break from his formal professional work in 1998 and went to the Golden Bridge Pottery in Pondicherry to do a course in ceramics. He has graduated in Urban Design from the University of Houston, Texas. He is now a 'budding' potter with a playful bearing for his work. However, his ability to try mawkish stunts with clay has rewarded him with 'interesting creations'.

Stoneware, thrown vase, woodfired to cone 10Adil says, 'It literally happened suddenly one day; most of my first year at the GBP I just had fun with clay. Then one day early in the second year, I felt I could 'pull' that cylinder on the wheel and I took it from there.' On that day when Adil's pot began to feel like a real pot, his teacher at the GBP, Ray Meeker, began to hum 'What a difference a day makes!'. Adil says that's exactly true, for that's when the confidence of throwing a pot right, begins to set in.

Ray Meeker, who with Deborah Smith at the GBP, has spearheaded the growth of stoneware pottery in India, is seldom swayed by the artistic talents his students sometimes flaunt. He looks for basic technique and skills, and that is what his course at the GBP is mostly about, making it arguably, the most intensive pottery course available in India. Says Ray, 'Adil is impatient, he tends to get ahead of himself, but his enthusiasm makes him a promising student. He has not yet developed his own style and is too young in the arena to be called an artist or a potter but it's his intent that I am interested in.'

Though still young in the world of ceramics, Adil's enthusiasm and fascination forSet of tumblers, 9" ht, reduction fired pottery have taken him on experimental journeys, that set him apart for his versatile use of clay. He can be a subliminal as he is elaborate, as much fun as he is serious, and his work seems to say the same. The spontaneity in throwing and altering forms, a prominent features in Adil's work, reveals decorative, and diverse style of contemporary ceramic art which was evident at his first show, 'Debut', in October 1999 along with another debuting ceramic artist Supriya Menon Meneghetti (Inside Outside, October '99).

 

Element bowl, stoneware, 12" diaAmongst the sellout items on display were his 'elemental bowls', 'inspired by stone-carved sacrificial bowls of the ancient Aztec culture'. Says Adil, 'Each ritualistic bowl was a receptacle for a heart freshly pulled out from an unfortunate sacrificial victim. Of course, none of this gore is evident in my bowls because I have taken this premise and developed them into vessels that hold water, oil and fire, … and being made of clay, I call them "elemental bowls".'

As in all stories, it helps to look at the past to comprehend the present a build towards a future. Adil's experiences in architecture and interiors are evident in his present clay work, 'His pots have a certain high gloss centrefold, airbrushed quality inherited from his experience with stylistic interior design,' says Ray. But Adil's time in Pondicherry seems to have given birth to an attraction for a more simple style not only with pots but also with interiors and architecture. 'Living here for the last two years and working closely with Ray, including the firing of two mud-domes on the outskirts of Auroville, I have opened up to not only the natural and organic materials used in pottery but also to the architecture in and around Auroville ... the use of local materials and simple styles that architecture in this part of Indian represents,' indicating a strong interest to develop on these methods of construction and design.Participating in loading unfired mudbricks, prior to firing a house with Ray Meeker

'At the GBP, I have a free rein over my work and I indulge in that,' Adil says. His introduction to clay came through Ajit and Pratima Vaidya of Ishalgad Ceramics in Mumbai, and his interest deepened with a visit to the GBP where he put his name down on Ray's three-year waiting list for 'potter-wannabes'! A brief postcard informed him, 'course begins first Monday of March '98'. Taking it to be a 'now or never' situation, Adil tentatively began his course, went through the usual teething troubles and now continues to emerge as a comfortable, fresh and open ceramic artist in the making.

Adil views his work as more 'organic or natural'. Eschewing standard designs and colours, he has veered towards more non-functional, decorative and funky ceramics. 'I don't find myself making "typical" crockery with standard handles and lids, but that could change. I may develop that at a later stage. For instance, when I look back on my interior and architectural work of 1992 and 1998 (done in tandem with Ruby Khanna of Talati & Panthaky Associated Pvt. Ltd., Bombay), nothing looks the same… which is good; it's still working, does not look dated and still has a freshness to it. I would love to see that in my pots. My pottery will keep changing… I know it will, and that's how it should go, right?' ...Right!!

As most stoneware potters are, Adil is indignant that so called 'cold ceramics', earthenware pots, usually large and commissioned from the village potter by 'urban artists', for covering with a collage of bright paint, industrial waste and practically anything else that can be Fevicoled onto the surface, sells much easier than handmade stoneware and at astronomical prices. But, 'it's a question of awareness, it will take time.Stoneware vase, ashglazed, 12" ht.

'Being an artist and a craftsperson can be balanced out if one pays attention to the buyer's psyche. Often an artist tussles with personal gratification and being swayed by the demands of the market. I think it's OK to give the market something it wants as long as I am happy with the object, because this sort of production work will give me the latitude to make something with more "devious details and projected fantasies", nothing wrong with that, is there? Huh?!!'

On future plans he says, 'No making plans, I go by the day, … that is why and how I am here. In the long run, it would be great to amalgamate architecture and ceramics… much like Antonio Gaudi's sculptural architecture all over Barcelona; something which has been indelibly stamped on my psyche ever since I had a darshan of it recently… it was one of those times when equanimity went out the window!!'

But most importantly for Adil, and coming from a Sting rockumentary, it goes like this… 'I'm very lucky I do what I do… I may also be doing what many don't like, but I love my work… one keeps feeling one is getting better, and as long as there's that feeling, I will keep doing it… I could never sit back and say I know everything now….' Amen!

adil@auroville.org.in

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