Rising from Earth
By Rajiv Theodore
Can you make it when you are 54! Yes, if you have pot luck on your side. That is the story of Gurpreet Singh Walia.
After walking away from heading an enterprise that produced printed circuit boards with a maze of lathe machines for over three decades and losing three fingers in the process, New Delhi-based Gurpreet today breaks into a rhapsody when he talks about the real love in his life.
It is just six months that he had said adieu to his earlier business that had always bought bread on the table. Today, he is possessed, transformed from a stressed up individual into a man with a song on his lips and spring in his steps. “I always wanted to do this, wanted to give vent to this creative beast in me and this is just the beginning.’’
He has plunged his head to heels into clay, that part of the earth that gives wings to his latent creativity bringing out vases, pots and other forms some of which evoke the persevering elegance of water jugs pulled from the volcanic ruins of Pompeii with traces of contemporary vigour and sensuality of his Punjabi lineage.
“Those things made of hand have so much soul and heart that it is amazing to see them form into a shape. This is surely an antidote to all the electronic gadgets that usually submerge us in today’s world,’’ says Gurpreet.
Many of his wares which includes designer pots in different sizes, some of them 40 inches high and 30 inches, Ganesha’s (Hindu idol) and urns are being imported to Western Europe, Scandinavia and Thailand. As all good Sikhs, fabled for their generosity, a part of his earnings go to charity
The growing reality is that ceramics/pottery is moving beyond mere hobby to budding creative careers too. “The nice thing about clay is that you can do it all, and almost anything from it unlike metals. It is a sheer thrill to see the earth (read clay) transform itself by the power of your thought into a piece de resistance, that is the primary reason I have christened my new venture—Rising from Earth”, says Gurpreet, an alumnus of St Stephens College, Delhi.
Yes, today ceramics/pottery have become the accessory of the moment. They are gazing at you like totems in trendy boutiques, artfully arranged on the windows or niches in boutique hotels and tastefully decorated homes. Ceramics have begun to replace jewelry and a to a certain degree furniture as the crafts du jour, to be flaunted on Pinterest and Instagram. There is beauty in imperfection, especially those that are handmade.
Although the process looks simple as a lump of clay is once placed in the middle of the potters’ wheel the form takes place almost instantly and blooms like a flower in his hand. He stops the wheel, cuts the pot off with a wire which he eventually places to dry and the next is ready to take shape. It all seems simple watching him, easy natural and organic. It looks like a kid could have made it. It is that good!
Once dry, in a surprisingly large basement which also houses a drum set, (where he also lets loose his musical instincts while taking a break from work), he fires the pots through an innovative log wood oven, goes on to use a mélange of colors –muted pastels, mat and bright glazier ones sprayed through an array of imported Iwata mechanical brushes before polishing them to his perfection.
He works for at least 18 hours alone in this atelier where he fine-tunes each of his creations obsessively getting that appropriate finish — a painstaking process that may emerge within a day or sometimes a week or even a month or more, he does not care.Many are given the touch with traditional brushes where his wife Parvinder gladly takes over.
Yes, this Delhi bred Sikh is venturing into that arena where fetishistic obsession with objects that are handcrafted is the rule of the game. As veteran potter David Reid had once said, “People are looking to have their humanity reflected back at them…people are moving back from slick and stainless steel to something warmer.”