At first sight it does not look like a vase or an incense holder. Its texture makes you think it is another one of those unusual pebbles you come across on a river bed. But the careful shape, colour, cracks and pores in this one are designed and serve an aesthetic purpose.
"Rather pretty isn't it, one of my favourite works," says Carole Irwin, the potter who created it. She has lived in Nepal with her husband, David, for 14 years and for six of those, worked with clay. Now, the couple is leaving Nepal and this is her last exhibition at Indigo Gallery where she showcased her ceramics every year. This one is a retrospective of her years in Nepal and their creative influence on her.
Carole worked with local potters in Bhaktapur with GTZ's Ceramics Promotion Project which trained them on glazing and using the kerosene kiln. "The clay here is not very good for pottery, it melts at very low temperature and does not seal properly. It's quite unfair because there are really good potters here," says Carole. She also assisted Maithili women adapt their designs onto ceramics and encouraged potters to produce designs other than the traditional flowerpots and vases.
Carole's own works are a variety of unusual shapes, colours and textures, five of them adorn the presidential suite at the Hyatt Regency in Kathmandu. "I'm influenced by rocks, stones on the riverbeds, waves and shells," she says, "and working with clay has something to it. It's a common substance and you don't have to go to much trouble for material."
Having moulded earth for more than 20 years, Carole says she can now usually shape things according to the image she has in mind. "But still," she adds, "every time you open the kiln it's a surprise. You only have control over part of the process." Leaving it to chance is what she really likes.
"The earth you shape keeps surprising you, like this one here," she says pointing to a vase that looks like molten lava. She ran her fingers down the vase and not liking the effect, nearly discarded it. But now, it's among those she's kept for her own collection.
Carole has worked with earth in Trinidad, Bangladesh and her home,England. She is also a painter and when she's back in London hopes to set up a studio and work on intricate ceramic tabletops that she began doing here.