Facilitator of Playful Clay workshops

I started experimenting with clay in my childhood at the age of about 12 or so at the same time as my mother got into clay as a new medium for art making. In a sense we started a simultaneous exploration. In my hometown in Russia back then it was not a popular art form, there wasn’t anybody to learn from, we just had to experiment on our own. Consequently we made a lot of mistakes but we developed our own style in the process. I would do things differently if I started today, I would definitely try to study with someone, but at that time I had no choice. We had to rediscover the wheel ourselves and search for materials far and wide.

I consider my work to be part of the Mother’s vision for a ‘laboratory’ in which everybody is given an opportunity to try as many different things as possible in order for them to figure out what their needs and their unique talents are. I do not offer professional training through this work, I provide an opportunity to step outside of one’s everyday life. In order to find out you have a passion for something, you have to try it out first. This is what I find really important in Auroville, especially for children – that they get a chance to be exposed to everything.

In my workshops I normally start with something for complete beginners that can be elaborated on if people wish to. Adults are at first very fearful that they won’t be able to create anything that makes sense. I show them some simple steps of how to create something , and the moment when they realize that they are capable of creating an object, suddenly their minds get flooded with ideas and they become eager to continue and finish the work in so many interesting ways that I always get surprised.

Unfortunately it is not really possible in two hours to create a finished product that you can take home with you, the process takes longer than that because we need to do firing as well. However because people love to take something home with them we created a system whereby you leave your own unfired piece but you can pick up and paint somebody else’s piece of work from a previous workshop.  This seemed like a good solution because completing the full cycle can sometimes take more than a month.

Before coming to Auroville I was a news reporter working for a municipality TV channel in a small city of about 200 000 inhabitants. Clay art was a second profession, I was part of the artist community  and in charge of reporting on the art scene news as well. In Auroville it has become my main passion. I was told some time ago by an astrologist that I am an ‘earth’ representative here, that I am very connected to the energy of the earth element and need to work with it. Since I am not a farmer, I need to work with an earthly material in some other way. When both of my hands are immersed in clay, I feel a certain magic in that moment, I feel complete. Once you experience that feeling, you just can’t quit. It’s a way of interacting directly with the earth and sending her some of your love. I think this was part of our mission in coming to a place like Auroville as well – to bring some positive energy back to the life forms on the planet, to the earth itself. This is why you see so many city people who previously had no idea what a tomato plant looks like, moving to rural environments and wanting to cultivate the earth. People who come to a clay workshop are not necessarily aware of this, but I believe I facilitate for them an experience of connecting back to the earth which has a highly therapeutic effect as well.

The more I develop as an artist the more I realize that there is no person on this planet who is not an artist as well. Absolutely everybody is able to express him/herself in a unique way, though most people may spend their lives not even trying. I love working with children and beginners because they bring out the most amazing ideas. Their lack of training gives them spontaneity and authenticity of expression. If I manage to bring out some of that childlike sparkle and spontaneity of expression in everyone I work with, I would consider my work successful.

Saraswati facilitates Playful Clay sessions for the Body Mind Soul and One Family retreats.