Music From Mud: Exploring the Artistry of Clay Pottery

On 12 – 14 May 2023, the students of the ARTS228 Music from Mud Pottery Course showcased their impressive collection of clay musical instruments at the Atrium of Krea University’s campus. The event drew a diverse crowd of faculty, students, and research fellows, all eager to witness the intricacies of the instruments. From rattles, pellet bells and ocarinas to udu drums, marimbas and panpipes, the display featured a range of aerophones and idiophones, each with its unique sound and design.

Visitors were treated to a demonstration of how each instrument works, the basics of clay, and the art of pottery. The event was a testament to the talent and creativity of the students, who poured their hearts into the making of these beautiful instruments. Posters and pictures of the instruments were also on display, allowing visitors to take a closer look at the remarkable craftsmanship that went into their creations. Overall, it was a delightful celebration of music and art, leaving all attendees inspired and filled with admiration.

The students enrolled in this course have had the opportunity to engage with a new art medium. ‘It was nice to interact with clay and something so earthy and natural,’ says Mallika Sobhrajani, a student from the SIAS Cohort of 2024, and adds that her favourite piece is the amplifier. ‘You do not need to know anything about music, to use it – you can just put your phone in it, and play music. I actually wanted speakers since a long time, and now I have one that I made myself,’ she adds, emphasising the joy of having created an object both aesthetically appealing and of practical use.

Even for those with prior experience in music and instrument-making, the course had a lot to offer in terms of novelty. Anu from the SIAS Cohort of 2024 is a guitar player, and music is an important part of his life. ‘I’ve made instruments before, but not using clay,’ he says. ‘One of the things I enjoyed most was working with the clay and getting the feel for the material. In the academic setting, I have not had much prior experience of working with my hands.’

Producing instruments out of clay requires not only technical skills and creativity, but also the right attitude and perseverance. Soumya Mati, another SIAS student from the 2023 Cohort, shares some of her experience: ‘The panpipe is my favourite instrument because it not only take a lot of skill to make, but it also took a lot of confidence and belief in my abilities. So when it was finally ready, I had this sense of achievement, accomplishment and happiness for having learned something new, unique, which I wouldn’t have got from any other course.’

As a skills course, Music from Mud has given the students an opportunity to experiment with new art forms, to benefit from the interwoven pedagogy which is at the heart of this course, and to maintain their mental wellbeing. Kaveri Bharath, Visiting Faculty at SIAS, and a Course Instructor for the ARTS228 Music from Mud course believes that a practical course such as this one helps students ground themselves. ‘Students at universities have a lot of intellectual matter going in, but they don’t have enough for their hand-eye coordination and for their tactile learning. So a practical course like this is definitely a must. Krea has the whole idea of interwoven learning, and interwoven learning does not get more interwoven than working with clay, because you need to know some geology, some geography, some history, you need to have chemistry and physics on your side, mathematics in calculating the tones and notes, to make the instruments. You have to have all of that, and then also be creative. These students have been fabulous – out of the 27 students who have taken the course, only one had previously worked with clay,’ she says.

These instruments were created in Krea University’s pottery studio. While a number of upgrades are in the pipeline, the establishment the pottery shed on campus is a significant milestone – it is the first arts space that has been commissioned at Krea, specifically for the Global Arts practicums. The project was made possible with the support from the Vice-Chancellor and the Deans, and through the joint efforts from Kaveri Bharath, Visiting Faculty at SIAS, the Campus Development and Campus Operations Teams.

‘A number of people were integrally involved in this project to get it finished on time for the third trimester, under very tight timelines,’ says Dr Sumitra Ranganathan, Divisional Chair, Literature & the Arts, SIAS. ‘Accommodations have been made to ensure that the space is inclusive and accessible, and to ensure the facility’s buildout over a period of time,’ she adds.

Mr Ramakrishnan Durairaj, Assistant General Manager, Operations Team at Krea University, says the pottery studio project is the outcome of joint efforts of many individuals and teams at Krea. ‘Operations Team worked with Campus Development Team, Professor Sumitra Ranganathan, Professor Srajana Kaikini and Professor Kaveri Bharath in finalising the location, the plan and other requirements needed for setting up the the pottery studio. In the later phase, after the construction of the studio was completed, the Operations Team helped in setting up the infrastructure required for the smooth operation of the pottery class,’ he explains.

The Campus Development Team – Mr K S Jaysankkar (Department Head), Mr N Senthil Kumar (Senior Manager), Mr V S Arunachalam, Mr N Siva, and Mr G Vaikundaraj – share a common sentiment of fulfilment and joy at the completion of the pottery studio at Krea. In a joint statement, they say, ‘The thought of bringing up a clay/pottery studio at Krea came with a deep committment of nurturing this age-old practice and helping the students feel closer to the environment. We, the Campus Development Team, immediately recognised a close connection with this art form, since it deals with soil, which is directly tied in with our profession. The pottery studio is a result of much thought, many rounds of discussions, always done collaboratively. This approach helped us overcome a number of challenges, including the tight deadlines. Kudos to our team, to the engineers, staff members, and all the construction labourers who worked tirelessly for many days and nights to finish the work on time. It gives us immense joy to see that this space now serves the student community, and enables them to learn and grow.’

This marks the humble start of a multitude of projects that shall be envisioned and nurtured within the welcoming walls of this pottery studio. Anticipate a delightful array of tales brimming with creativity, artistry and joy.

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