Raji Devta and I connected at a chance encounter at a studio, conversing about handmade product design and small batch production artisanal skills. She had just returned from studying the art of clay from Golden Bridge Pottery, Pondicherry, and started her own brand, clayventures, that focuses on craft conservation with Form, Function and Fire as the basis of her design ethos. She further enhanced her skill and knowledge when she spent some time in South Korea – an influence you can denote in her as well as her work! Within a short span of time, clayventures has created stunning, unique handcrafted pieces and ranges for various clients around the country. Our first collaboration for the Multifunctional Ceramic Dish was an immense success, and this shall be only the beginning of our journey together.
The first thing you will notice about Raji is her understated yet zen-like calm composure. Everything about her exudes minimalism with style and this translates beautifully into her works. When she sent over her first consignment of handmade ceramic dishes, the boxes were neatly labeled with typewritten notes on lovely cream textured paper – a detail that you can’t help but obsess over! Every bit of her work has a natural and effortless attention to detail. Visiting her studio to watch her work only emphasizes this further – an organized clutter of breathtaking designs dot the shelves while she works in the center, dressed in comfortably-stylish linens, oozing confidence and calmness, smiling as she works away. She is, in my opinion, the epitome of #everydayluxury.
Here, we learn more about Raji’s zen-like lifestyle:
Tell us your relationship with skincare?
Basic skincare is very much part of my routine and considering the pollution level we are around and even my everyday studio routine, it is very much necessary to follow a skincare routine, even though on somedays I do land up being lazy about it.
What’s your usual daily morning and evening skincare?
Cleanse, tone, moisturise, sunscreen and apply Nature Therapy walnut oil around my eyes before sleeping.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
I do land up checking my phone unfortunately first thing after waking up, working on changing that.
What’s your daily morning beverage and breakfast?
A glass of milk or Oolong tea with sautéed paneer or a bowl of pulses
#WomenOnTheGo: How do you balance your work and personal life?
Still trying to figure out the balance, truthfully; work is always on my mind and I quite enjoy it being so. Running the studio on my own lands up taking up so many roles apart from being just the designer and the maker. Plus, the process of clay converting to ceramics from start to end is quite long, demanding and sensitive. But I enjoy it very, very much, and I wake up every day looking forward to new challenges that lay ahead at work. Saying all of this I do keep my evenings free and enjoy the company of my family and friends. Although you'll could end up finding me at the studio on some Sundays!
When did you discover your passion for ceramics/pottery?
As a kid, I loved doing hands on work, exploring different materials and creating things. Watching a traditional potter spin and just create objects fascinated me as a kid and even now. Choosing to study design for undergrad was a no brainer for me. For my graduation project, that is the last six months of the final semester in Product Design, I opted to focus on clay and ever since I’ve been hooked onto it completely. The material is so free and approaches are innumerable, yet the process demands so much attention and technicalities, it’s a new puzzle everytime and that’s what I love about it.
Who or what inspires you in your work?
I am in love with the process, just seeing a new side of clay everyday keeps me going. The material is such that it has a new face with every changing season and every step. I just love figuring out my way through this jigsaw. Doesn't always have a pretty face but the thrill of creating objects for use is worth it.
What is the initial thought process for a new product design?
The basic design process begins with narrowing down on the brief, then comes mind mapping and sketching followed with quick model making in clay to fix up the dimensions.
How much of your stint in Korea has inspired your work?
Korea was a lovely experience. Being surrounded by such deep rooted culture and tradition in ceramics is really inspiring and motivational. From their way of working and techniques to their design philosophy and traditions; their approach is so direct yet subtle. The techniques and learnings picked up from their really come in handy and since my time there I enjoy observing these little, little changes that have come in my approach towards the material and making.
What is the most difficult part of starting your own business?
It’s only been a year since I’ve set up the studio. I’m comfortable designing and making things compared to what the other side of running your own business incorporates. Like marketing and interacting with consumers, managing finances. Splitting time between these two sides has been quite a challenge and a learning curve for me.
How often can you carve out your ‘me time’ and what does it entail?
‘Me time’ is segregated in two slots: ‘me time’ in the studio entails doing explorations and expressing for myself apart from focusing on the production. And ‘me time’ at home involves reading, a lot of peaceful reading on some days. Filling up the tub, sipping some nice wine and listening to music is the very once in a blue moon ‘me time’ that I tend to reward myself with.
What advice do you have for those aspiring to begin their own business in ceramics?
If this is what you are passionate about, just be at it.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2020?
Hoping to have another year filled with adventures and new learnings at work and in life
Follow Raji and her pottery adventures here:Instagram: @clayyventures