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the slow lane

Payoja Agarwal 


Cloistered in the sun speckled hills of Uttarakhand the ceramist and potter offers a glimpse into her life of unbridled creativity 


What is life in Uttarakhand like?

Calm and peaceful. There are few people and fewer vehicles. The only sounds we hear are birds, wildlife and water flowing. 



A regular day in your life 

We wake up early and one of us puts the kettle on to make some herbal tea with flowers or leaves from our garden. I go outside, take a barefoot walk on the grass and embrace nature as it embraces me. We both spend some time reading and eating breakfast. At my studio I spend some time aligning my thoughts – some days I put my hands straight into clay and on some days I draw or do some research.  My husband and I cook together. In the evenings, we tend to our garden - taking out weeds, planting and pruning. We step out to get our milk from the local milk collection centre and meet up with our neighbours for some chit-chat.We wind down with some internet. 



How has staying away from the bustle of the city  affected your creativity at large?

What I do as an artist comes from within. But living so close to nature has brought back the child-like wonder in me. Nature has so much art and design in it, I am becoming more observant.


You refer to yourself as a self taught artist, what did your early days of learning entail? 

I was first exposed to pottery in a one-day clay workshop held by my favourite teacher at college.  The earliest days were just me, a bag of clay and the wheel. I watched videos of potters throwing and tried to copy them. After a year of practicing on and off while working as a graphic designer, I got confident enough to buy a kiln. The art is entrenched in the actual chemistry – it's about the elements essential to ceramics, their natural forms and chemical formulas. Looking at historical and modern pottery works on museum and auction websites is a source of inspiration and often guides my thought process. 


What does slowing down mean to you? How do you measure productivity?

I needed to slow down to be able to live a healthier life and keep making work. Slowing down means being able to spend some quiet moments of introspection, I tend to enjoy the natural over the material, which puts a lot less pressure on my pocket. For me, there is no measure of productivity. As an artist, I spend a lot of time doing nothing. If I were running after productivity, I couldn’t make anything that would satisfy me. The joy of making something after it has hung around in my brain for a while is greater than making something impulsively.  



What is the intention behind your work?

My work itself is my intention. Becoming an artist happened to me by chance and I approach it with the only way I know i.e. logic. Every day I go to my studio to get better at what I do, to challenge myself, to learn something new. I make things to add beauty to our daily life and rituals. The intention is to make pottery that is simple, raw and unassuming. I value the elements of unpredictability, coincidence, and raw expression.