Party on a plate

For a year punctuated by food posts and Instagrammable table settings, what could be better than a homegrown potters’ list curated by one of the best in the business

I recently realised that I have more plates than essential winter wear. I was rearranging my storage when I discovered eight handmade plates I’d got from a potter in Athens in 2018. Evi Louka had converted her guest bedroom into a studio setting, and she showed me her work, including these hand-painted black and white designs, over a hot cup of coffee.

I cannot express how happy I was to see them, carefully wrapped in my sweaters, and I immediately knew what I’d be cooking next — a tapas board with charred leeks, salami, baked avocados, za’atar crusted feta, and fresh tomatoes with cream cheese. It was like a treasure hunt I hadn’t known I was on.

The toast upgrade

I am a trained chef who loves curating and setting tables. Every meal I cook at home is plated beautifully. Even a simple toast with jam, or rice with dal can be made to look special.

Tapas plates from Evi Louka | Photo Credit: Eeshaan Kashyap

The plates I collect are all handmade. Perfectly imperfect, they never match. One of the earliest pieces I bought was an eight-inch dessert plate, with bold Calla lilies, from an antique shop in Delhi. I recall the dealer being confused because I’d picked just the one! There is a certain joy in living with objects collected over the years from various parts of the world. In fact, I plan my itineraries around food, local pottery studios and flea markets where you can find amazing tableware.

I remember being amazed when I first visited Ray Meeker’s iconic Golden Bridge Pottery (@goldenbridgepottery) in Puducherry. The kiln was majestic, the air filled with sweet smoke, and objects lined on the side in varying shades of brown to charred green. While browsing, I came upon several large, round discs hung from trees and half sunk in the grass, with a full ecosystem formed around them. These antique platters — almost Pollock-like, with their asymmetrical paint and glaze — were sublime, and I knew I had to own one. This treasure now functions as a side table and takes pride of place in my home.

Potters for the picking

It is amazing how there is so much awareness today about pottery. Gone are the days when people used their international holidays to shop for ceramics. Popular events such as the Ceramics Fest in Delhi, the annual Bhopal Potters Market, and the Indian Ceramic Triennale in Jaipur are further opening up this handmade world.

Ray Meeker’s antique platters | Photo Credit: Eeshaan Kashyap

The pandemic has also led to a boom in this sector. With many people, including me, using our tableware — of various shapes, colours, materials, glazes, textures, and patterns — to plate up our lockdown cooking, there’s been a spike in curiosity. Ceramists I’ve been in touch with have been busy with orders. Take, for instance, Mandala Pottery (@mandala.pottery) in Puducherry. Run by Adil Writer, one my favourite ceramists — who does art pieces, murals, objects and installations — they have been shipping full table sets to Toronto, Sri Lanka and across India. “We have been swamped and, interestingly, most of the orders have been for first-time clients,” says Writer, who also customises plates for some of India’s most popular restaurants, such as Olive Restaurant & Bar and La Folie Patisserie in Mumbai, and Haiku in Hyderabad.

So at the end of a year where I’ve been inundated with questions on where I source my plates from, here is a list of potters and ceramists you must check out.

The Creative Platter, Delhi

Young studios, like this one run by Amankshi Rawat, have reworked their business model from B2B to B2C. And the response has been very positive, says Rawat. She follows a multidisciplinary expression to curating tableware, furniture and objects, which has grown thanks to Instagram (@thecreativeplatter) and other social media platforms.

Lucana Studio, Goa

Several people are pursuing pottery with a clear aspiration to open a business. Tanushree shifted to Goa from Delhi, and today her tumblers and coffee mugs are her fastest selling products.

The Stranger Co, Delhi

Satabdi Jena’s clean lines are a delight. And her motifs range from simple silhouettes of bees and dragonflies to contemporary prints such as table fans, and ink splashes inspired by Japanese scroll paintings.

Lalmitti, Manali

Extremely popular on Instagram (@atelier.lalmitti), the studio is run by Reyaz and his wife who left the hectic city life for the hills. Demand is so high that they often say no to orders — preferring to stay small and creative, and “not be a factory”.

Studio Farishtey, Pune

Veena Chandran, who also conducts pottery classes from her small studio, has seen an increase in participants in the last six to eight months. She feels that with food bloggers, influencers and chefs turning the spotlight on tableware in the last few months, more people want to buy now. See her work on @veenachandran_ceramics.

Curators of Clay, Pune

Not only are their workshops and Insta Lives (@curatorsofclay) — where they demonstrate everything from throwing clay to shaping their signature pieces — popular, but Bhairavai Naik and Rohit Kulkarni’s functional products are used in cafes and restaurants, encouraging customers to touch, feel and inquire about the tableware while they dine.

Plates from ₹300 to ₹30,000 per piece.

Eeshaan Kashyap is a chef and restaurateur.

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