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Gifts of Earth :

Stephen P. Huyler's Book on Indian Terracotta released


Gifts of Earth


IGNCA 8 Feb 1996. Stephen P. Huyler’s Gifts of Earth : Terracottas and Clay Sculptures of India was released by Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan on February 8, 1996.

Stephen Huyler is an American ethnologist, art historian and photographer, conducting a cross cultural survey of Indian folk art. During each of the past twenty five 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. His first book Village India, was published in 1985. His second book Painted Prayers: Women’s Art in Village India, published in 1994, documents the phenomenal decoration of mud architecture in India.

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 3.5 million. Every community, however small, usually incorporates at least one working potter, while towns and cities have large potting populations. As these craftsman cater to an extraordinary diversity of subcultures, traditions and enviornments, 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.

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.


Gifts of Earth: Terracottas and Clay Sculptures of India

Stephen P. Huyler IGNCA and Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd. PP. 232, Price: Rs. 2,250/-

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