In conversation with - Namrata Baruah
If I take you to my cabinet, most of the collection of mugs I own and use is made by Namrata. I am obsessed with her work and I feel fortunate to have seen her journey from an intern at slow pottery, to her own studio, and her recent upgrade to a new studio, to now taking classes for teaching pottery. I'm inspired by the way she is so secure about her work and the mindfulness with which she makes each piece. Her style is so unique that it's easy for me to spot an aware studio piece now. Each time I use a mug made by her, I automatically feel calm and there's a sense of solitude.
I knew it would be super inspiring to feature Namrata's story from the first time I bought her mug. And here we are!
I hope her story encourages you to not only become a potter but anything you wish to become. Perseverance and feeling secure with whatever you do and create are what I took from her story.
Q - Hi, please tell us a little bit about yourself
I am Namrata Baruah, from Bangalore, India. I have worked as a banker, grown and scaled an NGO focussed on youth mentoring and after 16 years, finally, have decided to nurture my creative side professionally.
After an episode of severe burnout, back in late 2019 - I left my last job and my career in the development sector. It was during this phase of recovery that I tried pottery for the first time in September 2020. Since then, there has been no looking back! I loved it so much that I didn’t think long and hard before deciding to build a career as a potter. Pottery has helped me work on my mindfulness and the beauty of it is too hard to let go of!
A little more about me apart from my newfound love for pottery - I love scuba-diving; am an ardent coffee-lover; a ravenous foodie; nature admirer; got the travel bug - love spending hours in art /history museums. I also am extremely fond of behavioural sciences, take a deep interest in photography and get excitedly involved in board games.
If you ask my friends & family to describe me, I am certain that warm, talkative, obsessive, kind, conscientious, intense are adjectives you’ll hear loud & clear!
Q - Was it always your dream to become an artist, if not how did you make the choice?
I have always loved art & craft - though forever slotted for leisure time. Do you resonate with it?! The conditioning of most of us youth growing up, I believe, has been that success equals a fancy white-collar job, which in most cases implied being an engineer/doctor/banker and the like. Art was a leisure activity - the idea of perusing the same with the intent of building a career out of it was alien to me.
It took me longer to get rid of this conditioning. Friends who challenged similar old-fashioned mindsets and who went on to follow their creative dreams have influenced me in breaking my stubborn ideas of a successful career person as a creative!
Having said that, my first step towards a creative career was mostly out of chance. When prompted by my therapist to practice mindfulness, I took to pottery. I eventually decided to build a career out of it owing to two primary reasons - first, I truly appreciated how clay humbled me and kept me centred. I became increasingly eager to further explore my relationship with it. Second, I know that I thrive in new and unexplored environments -most recently, my tryst with the development sector help me realise that. So I decided to commit to building a career as a creative professional - a studio potter - why not?! I knew it would keep me on my toes for the longest time; allowing me to explore, learn, express limitlessly. Elements I seek in my career, I deemed, would be an ingrained aspect of a creative career; took the plunge!
Q - who or what was your inspiration?
Took me a little time to pen this one down!
When I decided to invest in a new career, the newness of everything that surrounded me kept me engrossed and excited. But then slowly, with days passing, for like any budding potter, it dawned on me that my work was not marked by anything that screamed me. What direction did I wish to take as I embarked on this new journey?
I sat down to think. It soon occurred to me that I had an opportunity to marry my newfound love with my strongest love, food! How could ceramics influence a diner’s dining experience - I became curious about it!
The first thing that would come to one’s mind is (I am guessing!) - “oh! make tableware/kitchenware then” - functional pieces to be precise. True. Indeed. But not limited to just that. I knew a range of other aspects that have contributed to astoundingly remarkable dining experiences for me. I got inspired to explore the same. The shape of a ware, its colour and size aren’t factors that alone influence the taste of a dish - everything on a dining table and in a dining room could. I realised that as a ceramist I found a massive playground to play around in - with a singular objective of alleviating the experience of eating a delectable dish!
So yes, food and the field of gastrophysics has been my inspiration so far
Q - Please tell us about your milestone journey, especially the difficulty you faced?
Milestones so far have been my first sale to an individual outside of my network of friends & family, realising my dream of a fully functioning studio, taking on the role of a teacher/mentor in this domain and launching my brand.
Difficulties mostly have been a product of my mind - thoughts and ideas. Confidence in self, imposters’ syndrome, taking on too much, lack of self-care - these and other behaviours are what I have been fighting. But from the business point of view, figuring out nuances of things like running a studio efficiently, packaging ceramics, building a customer database etc have been trying endeavours.
Q - As an artist, what is your process like? How do you prefer to work? What projects/subjects are your favourite?
Currently being focused on functional ware, I often start working towards any prototype of a ware after secondary research online. What shape, what colour, what size, what texture would or could influence the food that will be served on it / eaten from it. In my early days, when I bumped into research by Stewart, P.C., Goss, E. “Plate shape and colour interact to influence taste and quality judgments” on how judgments made on simple elemental properties (sweetness and flavour intensity) and higher-level compound property judgments (food quality or food liking) were shown to be differentially influenced by the interaction of plate colour and plate shape - I got glued to this science. Ever since I spend abundant time in the design process of the ware.
Once I have a few options shortlisted, I work with clay to arrive at ideal weights and then processes that will help me realise my designs.
Q - At this point in your career, are you happy?
Q – What are your future plans regarding work?
Too early to comment on BIG plans - but I am certain I want to keep learning, keep sharing and keep growing with my community members.
Q - If someone read your story and wanted to follow in your footsteps being inspired by it, what advice would you give them?
Listen to yourself. Stay curious. Reflect & Introspect.Act.
Q - Do you believe in dreams?
Absolutely! They drive motivation for me which in turn translates into positive actions.