Tara Books is doing something fantastic. In its Makers series, it is bringing us the voices of craftspeople and folk artists, traditionally anonymous and unheard. I raved about their previous book on the Gond painters of Patangarh and their work, and now here is a new one, A Potter’s Tale, on Ramu Velar, a master potter from Tamil Nadu. In both it is the craftspeople who speak for themselves, rather than an art critic interpreting the work for us, and giving it his or her own urban spin. The perspective can be strikingly different. Working with craftspeople over the last 45 years, I’ve realized their craft is so instinctive to them that they do not intellectualize or romanticize the creative process in the way many other artists do. For some it’s a form of worship, for others a means of earning a living.
There’s something eternally fascinating about a potter and his craft. The spin of the wheel, added by a foot, the hands giving the lump of clay a form, and then with a flick of the thumb or fingers giving it a curve or elongating it, adding decorative patterns with a stick or fingernail.