Stacks in Kumhaargram Working with Kalu Ram, Vidhya Devi, Sunita, Mahender and Seema. Potters and die makers Kumhaargram 3.3 2012

Kalu Ram and I with a  top matka die I am working on.Vidhya Devi making matka using our die.


Sunita with a small matka she has just made for Stacks 2


Recently sitting at Manahar Lal ( ML)  drinking chai, the home compound was visited by a familiar face. It was a man I had photographed extensively, with his family, working in extremely simple circumstances in 2002. He went home and retuned with a copy of those photographs. The following day with ML visited his home/workshop. He makes matka die. ( waterpots are usually made by a throwing and beating process, for a more decorative, embossed look, a two part press mould is used, these moulds are called die) It occurred to me that Ann and I could create the graphics on these die. It would utilize local technology with our designs introducing another element to Stacks 2 as well as including another family in the project. This was put to Kalu Ram  and as it is a lengthy processing decided it would be our first priority. He was then away for several days on family business in Rajasthan. Ann and I returned with Vineeta ( interpreter) two days ago to finalize our ‘wish list’, this was a lengthy process  with much clarifications and expanding on the original idea which was for Ann and I to do 2 tops each. Of each of the 4 sizes what size? The 2 middle sizes.  Should we decorate bottom half die? Yes, we would decorate one bottom half, but 4 had to be made as we required a different base to what they usually use. How could we use some of their designs? Lets get them to make 6 of their small matka, Sunita  (oldest daughter now proudly married with a young daughter and with her husbands approval is staying with her family) had expertly demonstrated how the die were used and we wanted to include her somehow. After looking at the photographs of Tallarook Stacks Kalu Ram then demonstrated how he could throw the forms he could see in the photographs, o.k, we could have 3 of them to decorate with the little metal stamps they use to create patterns for their die. Order confirmed, 4 tops, 4 bottoms, 6 of their small matka and 3 thrown forms. Yesterday  morning Ann and I were excited about the prospects of working on our own die. This enthusiasm was short lived as on arriving at Kalu Rams it was apparent we had not communicated as effectively as we had thought. There were the 3 thrown pots, (the ones not originally in the plan) and 4 bottoms, all the same size.  We wondered where our top die were? he had not made them as he thought we no longer wanted them. The power was then off most of the day and as he was going out to a baby boy celebration, to which we were invited  to ‘come and eat’( today we were told  500 people attended , maybe another miscommunication on the numbers,  and they were indignant that they did not eat until midnight, we were happy we had attended ML’s grandsons 3rd birthday , another story, and ate at 10pam) he was not able to make them until this morning but assured us he would make them early and they would be ready to work on by midday. We did enjoy the process of carving and stamping into the bottoms yesterday  and it gave us an idea of the nature of the material we were to work with, good to impress when less than leatherhard, good for carving when leatherhard although the small stones offered resistance to a nice clean line. On arriving this morning, still no top pieces,  my first thought, “how long will the power stay on” without any sense of urgency he made the 4 tops, all the same size, to fit the 4 bottoms of yesterday, and, they would be dry enough to work on by 1.30pm. And they were, with the help of Sunita and Mahender we impressed and carved our designs into the clay. Over the morning Sunita made the 6 small waterpots using their die effortlessly. We now wait for these die to be fired so they can be used to make matka….. with our designs.


 An update. All our die have been fired and matkas made using  the die,  tomorrow we will see the finished product, we will colour them and they will be fired.