In 2013, Sangam looked at the concept of equal relationships between Craftspersons, Designers and the Consumer. The artisan wants fair treatment and pay, the designer wants their IPR to be safeguarded, and the consumer wants something innovative from crafts. We chose to call it, “Samaanata” which means equality. We decided to work with Manipuri black pottery because it is three dimensional in nature and also because we were looking to work with marginalized artisans in the Northeast.
We were asked to create an identity for this event. Since this event is focused on the “craft object” for the retail space, we decided to work with a medium that would allow the identity to look like an object, or a product. Something that is 3D.
We worked with Apam Ahum of Hao Crafts to create the letters in black stone pottery or Longpi pottery which is made from combining clay with crushed Longpi rock from Longpi village in Ukhrul district of Manipur in the marginalized area of the Northeast part of the country.
The products being shaped by hand and not by a wheel. The powdered rock and clay are mixed together and made into dough which is then flattened out on a wooden late and moulded by hand to make a variety of objects. The products are then polished and incised by skilled artisans with the help of bamboo blade. The products are fired in the kiln for 4–5 hours at about 900 C. The products are then covered with leaves known as chilon-na. The smoke of the leaves lends a black shade to the pottery. Cane strips are woven through incisions made by skilled basketry artists, who belong to Tangkhul, Maring and Tarao tribes of Manipur.
In the initial stages we looked at using the idea of the knot as a metaphor for binding relationships. The initial set of letters created in clay were disappointing since they didn't have the same language as that of the longpi black pottery. We went back to the drawing board and this time we looked at the characteristics of the products made with this clay — they tend to have a "flatness" at the edges of the handles and the mouths, which we liked. We then made further tests and finally with the help of the artisans created a larger set of letters for Samaanata which this time looked quite amazing!
Many thanks to the hard work and perseverance of Apam (Hao Crafts), Shirley Bhatnagar (Ceramics Specialist and Artist), Esther Fell and Kyra Markosian. The latter two were both interns from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Many thanks to Prof. Kevin Murray for his support and patience during the project.