Shikha Joshi talks about how she found her calling as a clay artist, being part of a larger artist community in Austin, and the influences behind her work. Her piece, “Following in the Footsteps. . . “ is featured in CraftTexas 2012, currently on view at HCCC through December 30, 2012.
I am a studio potter currently working out of my home studio in Round Rock, TX, a suburb of Austin. We moved to this city in 2003, when my husband took up a job with Dell. Though we call Texas our home now, I am originally from India—a country richly steeped in the tradition of arts and craft, which has strongly informed my aesthetics.
My first encounter with clay makes for a rather funny anecdote. It happened on the streets of New Delhi, when, fascinated by a potter throwing on his wheel, I decided to give it a shot. I went to this roadside potter and told him I wanted to try my hands at clay. Amused by my desire—for it is not everyday people walk up to him, requesting to learn his craft—the potter delegated his nine-year-old son to indulge me. We sat by the busy street, and the little boy centered a lump of clay on the wheel for me to play with. Needless to say, I couldn’t make anything that day but the joy of wet clay slipping through my fingers was so enthralling, it took me into a different realm. I was oblivious to the crowd that gathered around us to watch a well dressed young girl getting hopelessly muddy under the direction of a little boy. I knew that day I had found my calling. The seed that was sown in India on that warm spring day achieved maturity in the U.S., where I learnt and continue to learn the skills of this craft. My work, therefore, exhibits a blend of influences from both these countries.
To be a maker in my community has been a very honoring experience, a sharp contrast from what I perceived growing up in India. Though India’s traditional craft is wonderful, and the skill level of the artists is par excellence, the craftspeople themselves do not enjoy the respect they deserve.
Austin is a very vibrant city, which attracts a lot of artists and craftspeople. It is home to numerous art and craft guilds. I feel lucky to be a part of the Greater Austin Clay Artists (GACA), a group exclusively for people working in clay. The members meet regularly to network, share ideas and techniques, and to do shows. I feel lucky to be part of this group and share a sense of community and camaraderie with its members.
A little about my work—I make functional pottery embellished with carvings inspired by traditional Indian designs. My pots are predominantly wheel thrown and then altered, in the quest to achieve fluidity of form. The form, in turn, dictates the surface treatments, which vary from intricately carved to plain glazed surfaces. The rich earthy hues strongly appeal to the artist in me and influence the choice of my clay and glazes. Bernard Leach said, “Look to combine Beauty with Function in a pot.” It is this fine balance between aesthetics and function that guides me on my evolutionary journey as a potter.