Wearable Stories: In conversation with the artisan behind Terracotta by Sachii’s tribal jewellery Collection

Wearable Stories: In conversation with the artisan behind Terracotta by Sachii’s tribal jewellery Collection

In the realm of artistry and tradition, there exists a tapestry of stories, woven meticulously by the hands of passionate craftsmen. We delve into the vibrant world of Terracotta by Sachii's latest creation - a captivating tribal jewellery collection. Today, we bring you an exclusive interview with the hands behind these wearable tales, Mr. Harish Dhiwan, a 74-year-old artisan hailing from Gwalior. His infectious enthusiasm for his craft is palpable, making this conversation a journey into the heart of creativity and dedication.

INTERVIEWER: Mr. Harish, tell us a bit about yourself.

HARISH: Greetings! I am Harish Dhiwan, a septuagenarian artist from Gwalior. In addition to hand-painted T-shirts, my passion lies in crafting tribal jewellery inspired by the Seheriya tribe.

INTERVIEWER: Why did you choose to create tribal jewellery, and why the Seheriya tribe in particular?

HARISH: Folk art, to me, is the epitome of originality and inspiration. Modern art, I believe, stems from these ancient traditions. The Seheriya tribe's unique approach caught my eye amidst the saturated market of other folk arts. Their timeless techniques and motifs, featuring elements like aeroplanes and mobiles ahead of their time, drew me in. In a world filled with shortcuts, the Seheriya tribe remains true to traditional processes, and that authenticity captivates me.

INTERVIEWER: What inspires the designs in your jewellery?

HARISH: About 90% of my designs draw inspiration from Seheriya motifs, reflecting the beauty of everyday life, including compositions of fishes, birds, trees, and monkeys.

INTERVIEWER: What materials do you use, and what is the process of creating terracotta jewellery?

HARISH: The journey of crafting these unique pieces begins with the careful selection of local mud. This mud, sourced from the heart of Gwalior, undergoes a meticulous refining process that spans 5 to 7 months. The mud is treated with utmost care and precision, as I wait patiently for it to attain the right consistency for carving. Once the mud is ready, I use a knife, a humble yet essential tool in my artistic arsenal. With skilful strokes, I carve intricate designs onto the slightly hardened mud, carefully managing the water content to ensure the perfect canvas for creativity. The meticulousness of this step reflects not just a craft, but a form of meditation, where patience is the key to achieving a natural glaze during the firing process. Firing the terracotta pieces in the kiln is a critical stage in this artistic journey. The anticipation builds as the colours develop during the firing process at temperatures ranging from 700 to 800 degrees Celsius. It's a moment of revelation when the final look of the piece emerges. The hues and tones are not preplanned, allowing each piece to boast its unique character and charm. Unlike many contemporary practices, I don’t paint the terracotta pieces. I  firmly believe that painting is a way to hide flaws, and this commitment to authenticity is evident in every piece. The natural glaze achieved during the firing is a testament to the traditional techniques upheld by the Seheriya tribe and my dedication to preserving these methods. 

INTERVIEWER: What aspects of the process do you find challenging or rewarding?

HARISH: Surprisingly, I find no challenges; every step brings me joy. The entire process feels like nurturing a baby, and the rewards are abundant, from conception to completion.

INTERVIEWER: How did the collaboration with Terracotta by Sachii come about?

HARISH: My journey with Terracotta by Sachii began when Ms. Sachii appreciated my work at an event by the Delhi Blue Pottery Trust. This collaboration marks a significant milestone in my career.

INTERVIEWER: Do you design with the idea of creating a collection, or is each piece unique?

HARISH: Each piece is individually designed, as the final appearance is unpredictable after firing. I can't preplan a collection due to the nature of terracotta.

INTERVIEWER: How many products can you make in a day, and what does your typical day look like?

HARISH: The output varies based on design complexity, with some days yielding 5-6 pieces. My day starts at 5 am, and I work diligently until 11 pm, finding immense happiness in the process.

INTERVIEWER: Where are your products listed, and do you have other brand collaborations?

HARISH: My products find a home on Facebook, as I am not tech-savvy. The exclusive collaboration I have is with Terracotta by Sachii. Despite an offer from Amazon, I declined, as replicating terracotta exactly as pictured is impossible.

INTERVIEWER: Can you share the story of your first sale?

HARISH: My first sale, a piece adorned with real pearls, was to my sister-in-law who admired it. At that time, I wasn't selling jewellery; I created it out of love. Word of mouth sparked subsequent sales, and the journey hasn't stopped since.

INTERVIEWER: Considering where you are in your career, do you believe your education contributed?

HARISH: No, I spent 13 years in higher education, a period I consider a waste. The discovery of the Seheriya tribe's work made me wish I had learned it earlier, sparing me from formal education.

INTERVIEWER: Thank you, sir, for your time. Talking with you has been inspiring on so many levels.

HARISH: I'm grateful for the opportunity. Crafting these pieces is not just my work; it's my joy and passion and I’m so happy I get to do it every day.

Mr. Harish's journey reflects the essence of genuine craftsmanship and dedication to preserving cultural roots. Terracotta by Sachii's tribal jewellery collection, shaped by his skilled hands, tells more than just a story—it encapsulates the spirit of tradition, innovation, and unwavering passion. 

Interview conducted by Ms Noor Mehra. 

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