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Clayhead of Mandarmani

Written on Aug 26, '14

My first, and (thankfully for my kind visitors) only attempt at clay modeling : As you can see, I'm much better with crayons and brushes and stuff. A number of years back (about 10, I think) I had tried my hand at plasticine, but after wasting a 250 gm packet of it, I had moved on. But plasticine is oil-based, and this was real clay from the sea side - their handling properties are quite different. In fact, I was pulled into attempting this by the guy whose car we were renting, for a short trip to Mandarmani.

Mandarmani is on the coast of Bay of Bengal, about 180 kms from Kolkata. Being on the wing of a sprawling delta area, the beach was mainly clay rather than sandy. I was traveling in a small group, and the car-owner/driver knew that I was 'arty'. He had some ambitions in art years ago, and unlike me, had had some formal schooling too in that subject. Before starting from Kolkata, I had accompanied him to 'Kumar's Concern' of Gariahat (my favorite little art shop, when I'm not purchasing online).

He had asked me where to purchase clay modeling tools, since he wished to try out the clay at Mandarmani beach. So I gifted him this relatively inexpensive, wooden tool set, and we were happily on our way to Mandarmani. After reaching the place, when the noon-tide had subsided, with the sea retreating far into the horizon, he had dug out an amount of clay from the beach and brought it to the hotel. In the evening he goaded me into doing something with it - despite my protestations that I knew nothing about clay-shaping.

So this was how it looked in the morning, after about an hour and bit of punching and poking at the clay. I learned that water is very important in clay-modeling, and can be used like one uses it in watercoloring, to alter the consistency and surface properties at a particular location. I can't say I didn't enjoy doing it, but I have no immediate access to clay in Kolkata, so I didn't get to repeat this experience. 

Last I saw of this horrible head was after we had returned, while unloading the overnight bag from the car's boot. This was more than 6 months back. A few days ago I met him again, and he said 'the head' is still with him. I was amazed!


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