Delhi businessman Gurpreet Singh Walia takes to pottery with Rising from Earth

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NEW DELHI: After walking away from heading an enterprise that produced printed circuit boards with a maze of lathe machines for over three decades – and losing three fingers in the process – New Delhi-based Gurpreet Singh Walia, 54, today, is a happy man when he talks about the real love in his life, which has become his profession too: pottery.

It’s been just six months that Walia bid adieu to his earlier business. Today, he’s possessed with new purpose in his life, transformed from a worn-out, stressed individual into a man with a song on his lips and spring in his steps.

“I always wanted to do this, wanted to give vent to this creative beast in me and this is just the beginning,’’ Walia said in an interview.

By plunging himself into clay, Walia, an alum of St. Stephen’s College, has found creativity in bringing out beautiful vases and pots. Some of his works evoke the persevering elegance of water jugs pulled from the volcanic ruins of Pompeii, mixed with traces of contemporary vigor and sensuality of his Punjabi lineage.

“Those things made of hand has so much soul and heart that it is amazing to see them form into a shape. This is surely an antidote to all the electronic gadgets that usually submerge us in today’s world,’’ said Walia.

Many of his wares, which includes designer pots and urns in different sizes, and the Hindu God Ganesha, are being imported to Western Europe, Scandinavia and Thailand.  Like all good Sikhs, fabled for their generosity, a part of Walia’s earnings go to charity.

“The nice thing about clay is that you can do it all, and create almost anything from it unlike metals. It is a sheer thrill to see the earth (read clay) transform itself by the power of your thought into a piece de resistance, that is the primary reason I have christened my new venture—‘Rising from Earth’”, said Walia.

Today, ceramics/pottery have become the accessory of the moment. One can find them everywhere in Delhi. Some look like totem poles in trendy boutiques, artfully arranged on the windows or niches in boutique hotels and tastefully decorated homes. Ceramics have begun to replace jewelry and a to a certain degree furniture as the crafts du jour, to be flaunted on Pinterest and Instagram.  There is beauty in imperfection, especially those that are handmade.

Pottery looks simple, as a lump of clay once placed in the middle of the potters’ wheel begins to take form almost instantly and blooms like a flower in Walia’s hand. When done, he stops the wheel, cuts the pot off with a wire which he eventually places to dry.  Watching him at work, pottery looks a natural and organic process.

Once dry, in a large basement (which also houses a drum set and sometimes he lets loose his musical instincts while taking a break from work), Walia fires the pots through an innovative log wood oven, goes on to use a mélange of colors –muted pastels, mat and bright glazier ones sprayed through an array of imported Japanese Iwata mechanical brushes before polishing them to perfection.

Walia works for at least 18 hours alone in this atelier where he fine tunes each of his creations obsessively, getting that appropriate finish. It’s a painstaking process that may emerge within a day or sometimes takes a week or even a month or more, he explains. Many are given a finishing touch with traditional brushes, and here his wife Parvinder gladly takes over.

This Delhi-bred Sikh businessman-turned artist has ventured into that arena where fetishistic obsession with objects that are handcrafted is the rule of the game.

Veteran potter David Reid had once said: “People are looking to have their humanity reflected back at them…people are moving back from slick and stainless steel to something warmer.”

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