Gifts of Earth Mapin Publishing

Gifts of Earth

Terracotta & Clay Sculptures of India
Stephen P. Huyler

Clay is essential to Indian culture, past and present.

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Clay is essential to Indian culture, past and present.
It is accessible everywhere; it takes form with very little effort; and its fragility assures its constant renewal. It has been the perfect vehicle for Indian creativity throughout the ages. The shapes and styles of items made of clay, both fired and unfired, are innumerable. They comprise everything from the miniscule to the gigantic, from simple to highly ornate, from realistic to abstract, from purely practical to utterly fantastic. Many of the potters who make them act dual roles as craftsmen and as links to the god. Their products are often remarkably similar to those found in ancient archaeological sites and many potters believe that they are directly descended from India's earliest craftsmen.

There are more working potters in India than in any other country of the world — more than 350 thousand! Every community, however small, usually incorporates at least one working potter, while towns and cities have large potting populations_ As these craftsmen cater to an extraordinary diversity of subcultures, traditions and environments, their products are usually varied. They make vessels for every conceivable household use; from the simplest clay lamps, cooking pots and food containers, to storage bins eight feet high. They sculpt images to be used in religious ceremonies ranging from tiny figures made from pinches of clay to magnificent horses and elephants over eighteen feet tall, the largest terracottas ever created in the history of humanity.

In a text sumptuously illustrated in colour, the author and photographer, Stephen P. Huyler, surveys this exciting craft through examples from all over India. He documents contemporary potters; their techniques and production, and the use of clay in the households and temples today, exploring comparison of today's products with those of ancient India. Discovered by the author during nineteen years of extensive travel, research, and photography throughout the Indian subcontinent, most of these sculptures and vessels have never been documented before.

Stephen P. Huyler is an American ethnologist, writer and photographer conducting a cross cultural survey of Indian folk art. During each of the past twenty-three years he has spent several months travelling extensively throughout India documenting craftsmanship and contemporary traditions. Beginning with a research project on the terracottas of Tamilnadu in 1971, he has continued to document clay sculpture and its production and use in rural communities, particularly in ritual worship. With degrees in Indian history and art history from the University of Denver, he prepared his Ph.D. thesis at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies. His doctoral topic was a survey of rural Indian terracottas, focusing on contemporary traditions as a means for understanding their ancient counterparts. Dr. Huyler returned to America to write his first book, Village India (Abrams, 1985). He served as a consultant for two exhibitions during the Festival of India in the United States in 1986: The Brooklyn Museum's "From Indian Earth: Five Thousand Years of Terracotta Art", and Mingei International Museum of World Folk Art's "Form and Forms of Mother Earth: Contemporary Indian Terracottas". His second book, Painted Prayers: Women's Art in Village India (Rizzoli,1994) documents the phenomenal decoration of mud architecture in India. He is currently curating an exhibition on personal devotion in India for the Smithsonian Institution. When not conducting field research in India, Dr. Huyler lives with his wife, Helene, in Camden, Maine, U.S.A.


Prologue - Mitti: Mud, Sacred and Mundane
Kumbhara: Makers of Pots
Prqjapati: Potters Des cended from a God

Paja: Terracottas Used in Worship
Mitti Ke Dan: Gifts of Earth

Tamil Nadu: Guardians of Boundaries

Uttar Pradesh: Gifts of Elephants

Orissa: Temples for Tulasi
ISBN 9788185822099
Pages 232
Number of photographs 203
Size 9 x 12" (229 x 305 mm), hc
Date of Publishing 1996
Language(s) English
Co-publisher(s) Mapin
Rights Available World rights

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