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The ceramic couple

At their secluded house in Unsani Sasthitala, Swapan Jana and Mukta Dey Jana are busy at work making ceramic sculptures, crockeries and decorative items. While the wife moulds on the potter’s wheel, the husband fires the furnace. Little Oishi, their daughter, kneads the dough with her feet, while watching her parents work.

Swapan and Mukta have a studio, equipped with a potter’s wheel and a furnace. In 2006, the couple built this studio at their home, not just for themselves but for students studying ceramics. They realised that most art colleges in Calcutta do not have a furnace or a wheel. “It was our dream to start a residential studio at our house where students could stay and learn ceramics. We have four rooms on the third floor where students can stay,” said Swapan.

It was by chance that Swapan and Mukta started working with ceramics. Swapan had applied to the Government Art College after completing his Higher Secondary exams. “After completing my masters I won a national scholarship in 2000 and went to Allahabad to train in the Government Pottery Project under K V Jena,” he said. Through the years, Swapan has mastered different types of glaze given to pots. “At present, however, I am working mainly on the crystal glaze and I am experimenting with sculptures made with ceramics and metal casting,” said Swapan.

Mukta, on the other hand, knew nothing about ceramics when she decided to study art. “When I saw how clay could take such beautiful form, I decided to specialise in ceramics,” said Mukta. Although they had met at Santiniketan, it was through K V Jena that Swapan and Mukta were formally introduced to each other. “I was working under Jena to prepare for an exhibition. After meeting Swapan, we started working together,” said Mukta.

Swapan and Mukta have done many exhibitions, both solo and as a couple in Calcutta, Hyderabad, Bangalore and other cities. It was through exhibitions that Swapan received invitations to visit Chennai Art College and Gubargaon Art College in Karnataka as lecturer. Mukta, on the other hand, is an empanelled artist with the Ministry of Textiles of the central government and she has to visit villages across the country developing new ideas in 22 different disciplines and educating the local craftsmen about them.

“At the studio, we work on orders for crockeries or interior designs for five star and seven star hotels. We also work on new innovative ideas,” said Mukta. One can get a glimpse of their ideas from the crockeries in their house. “We have customised and designed them as we please,” said Swapan.

Dalia Mukherjee