"God made us and he taught us to create from dirt. We sifted, stomped, kneaded and sculpted dirt and played errand in the creation of the rest of the world.
The creator made us to be creators."
My ancestors have worked with clay and I have worked with it for over 40 years now. I wake up before the sun rises and am by the wheel while it lights the sky up. My family makes a living through the pots we make. The toddy industry in Kerala is what saves us and sustains us.
I make other utensils, figurines and artifacts too, but they are completely seasonal. Our ways have changed so drastically that the utensils I create are not in use by most people. We had stainless steels and plastics to compete with and our humble terracotta does not give us a chance.
Figurines made by potters placed under a sacred banyan tree. Photographed by Keerthana Balaji
I dream like the others. I would like to own a house, buy gold for my grandchildren or see them drive a car, I would like to be able to help them financially and also make sure that I do not hinder their growth in life in my old age. These are reasonable dreams to have for any man. My son took to the wheel, while my daughter didn’t; neither did my brother’s children.
"Times have changed. Things are better for us now. We worked for grains a few decades back. We don’t anymore. We do have ownership of our skill. Yet our children do not want to learn this and why is that? It is not because I am not willing to teach. Our generational skill cannot hinder my children or their children’s aspirations, but I do wish it lives on. It has been our identity after all."
This job makes me content. I rest if I am unwell. I work as much as I can; on my own terms and I work hard when I can or want to. Be it a bad day or a loss or an extremely happy day, the wheel aligns me every time. My problems are solved by this, I am grounded by the earth I work with.
"As long as I keep it spinning, I am living."
I am Balan and my life’s purpose is to turn clay to pots.
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IGNITE INITIATIVE x BALASUBRAMANIAM
Ignite Initiative from Tungsten Creative is collaborating with Mr.Balan in creating genuine clay artifacts. We are hoping to add value to his creations and we will work with him in the forthcoming years in terms of design, development and marketing. The first product we worked on were these humble diyas. We wish it spreads light and happiness to all and reminds each one at their most vulnerable times to be rooted in their purpose. To support us, write to us with your requirements or ideas and we’ll get back to you.
1. Terracotta Diyas - Photographed by Keerthana Balaji
2. Balasubramaniam, Potter & Keerthana Balaji, Founder- Tungsten Creative - Photographed by Parthiban