Thomas as a Teacher, Host and Friend
During my 2 week India trip, I have spent 4 days at Thomas' studio to learn pottery - and to be a guest in his home. Thomas is an incredibly kind and warm individual, who is easy to get along with. I remember the first evening I arrived at his place very well: I felt like a long-awaited friend rather than a new person staying at a stranger's house. We ate homemade food, played on his ceramic drums, enjoyed live music at a local venue, shared beers and conversations - like a friend would treat you, right?
Day One - Let's Talk Business
You may think we started right away with pottery. Well not exactly... I accompanied Thomas to the Cube Gallery, where he prepared an exhibition. Imagine this: me, normally hanging over Excel sheets, project plans and business cases got a proper glimpse into how artists make business. Sonny, the gallery manager, discussed pending to-do's, pricing, and marketing with Thomas - and I would take it all in with astonishment like a child peeks through the keyhole of a locked door.
Day Two - Clay, Snakes and The Little Princes of Rajasthan
The best way to get familiar with a new material is using haptic: squeezing, rolling and feeling clay with my hands helped to understand the texture, warmth, and weight, and it built the foundation for Thomas' workshop. It would throw me right back into my childhood memories at art school, which made it even more intuitive to untame my inner child that day: imitating Thomas' techniques such as building busts, figures and snakes; combining and changing pieces of clay; shaping weird creatures; and having a good laugh in between.
After hours of intense clay work, Thomas and I ventured out on the scooter to relax at Goa's beautiful beach. The day ended with a private viewing of 'The Little Princes of Rajasthan' at Thomas' friend's place. The movie impressed me with its vivid, authentic and pure pictures showing the richness of India's local craft, yet alarmed me about the vulnerability and volatility. At the same time, I realized that I have tapped into an incredibly creative, caring, smart and open-minded group of people.
Day Three - I swear, I have not seen 'Ghost'
I may have looked a little bit like Demi Moore in Ghost when I started the last day of my workshop - standing on the porch with my short hair and casual light-blue shirt - but I swear I have never watched this movie! Anyway, let's carry on to the important part - wheel technique!
Certainly, it looks way easier than it is. However, Thomas would explain and demonstrate each step to make a pot carefully, making it easy to practice on the wheel. He also brings so much compassion and patience to the process, it is contagious! Within 4 hours I threw about a dozen times, with a few pots looking fairly good (one could drink a hot chai out of them), around the same amount had very interesting edges and characteristics (hot chai might be too risky, let's say one can leave the keys in it) and, of course, some did not pass the quality check.
Why I would do it again?
Well, I hope the memories shared already conveyed the emotional value of my experience, but lets get down to the hard-facts:
- 100% Value for Money - absolutely well-invested, keeping in mind that the fee is mainly for the artists covering their time and material.
- 100% Safety - although I'd call myself an 'experienced' solo traveler, VAWAA gave me the extra layer of confidence to spend 4 days with an artist in a small village in Goa far off the normal tourist crowd.
- 100% Customer Service - VAWAA provided me from beginning till end with relevant information about my trip such as a reminder, location and contact details, country advice and feedback form.
- 100% Learning a New Skill - I am not a professional potter after 4 days, yet it did get a good understanding of the craft and what it takes to be an outstanding artist in this field. It opened my mind for a new craft, a new culture and new approach to art.
- 100% Explorer-Feeling - Although a VAWAA experience is booked via an official platform, I still had the feeling of an adventurer and discoverer. Why? VAWAA is about what you make out of it and does not dictate the agenda; those moments are simply unique to the artist and the guest.
Written by Julia Zoellner