Karnataka’s Central Village Pottery Institute, the only government-run pottery school in India, has been seeing a consistent rise in women students. This reflects a rising trend of women in the state foregoing traditional career paths to explore their creativity.
A total of 10 women signed up for the four-month long master potter course in 2019-20. Eight of these applicants are extremely qualified individuals who were working in a number of other industries before shifting lanes. In addition, two of them are also planning to launch their own businesses, having already completed the course.
The institute has been offering pottery courses since 1963, and is operated by the Khadi Village and Industries Commission. Students from the institute are adept at moulding and baking clay utensils and artefacts, and now, exploring terracotta jewellery as well, as it has a huge demand in the international market. The institute not only teaches traditional wheel pottery and coiling, but also methods like slip-casting, pressing, jigger, and jolly, which are required for the production of large volumes.
One such individual is Deepa Shivaji Sonaji, formerly an IT professional in Bengaluru, who made a conscious decision to make a change in her life and do something she loves. She has already completed the four-month-long course and now runs her own terracotta jewellery business, in her hometown Belagavi. She says, “I quit the IT profession to learn pottery to start my own business. There may be more money in the software industry, but not much peace. It’s a thankless job. Jewellery-making not only fetches money, it brings a great amount of joy while working.”
She frequently receives a number of orders from both Goa and Mumbai, having recently delivered 80 jewellery products to Mumbai. As such, her business and her list of clientele have been growing steadily, and in the near future, she also plans on roping in some of her l
Her clientele is only growing and Deepa says she is now trying to loop in some of her batchmates once they complete the course.
One such student is Pooja Chalannavar from Belagavi, who had ranked 26th in the all-India entrance exam for MSc in agriculture. She had pursued her MSc from Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology, and despite receiving many job offers for the role of assistant professor, decided to chart her own path, instead. She said, “I have an aptitude for wall painting and drawing. Hence, I thought I can learn this form too. Once I perfect pottery, I will set up my own business in my father’s agricultural land. Many people are now looking to buy terracotta jewellery, especially in cosmopolitan cities.”
Sujata, on the other hand, is a DPharm student, who, with her husband, will be establishing their own pottery unit at Desur in Belagavi. She said, “I think pottery making will be creatively fulfilling and bring a sustainable income.”
According to Nagesh Govardhan, the assistant director of Khadi Village and Industries Commission, barely one or two of the students in the earlier batches were graduates or held jobs, but things are changing. He said, “Our students this year have degrees and careers in IT, architecture, pharma, commerce etc. And all of them want to start their own pottery business.”