“I become one with clay and the space, what follows is an EXPERIENCE. I see myself as an instrument in bringing some order to the chaos created when the elements mingle.”
- Ruby Jhunjhunwala
Ruby Jhunjhunwala is a Pune based ceramic artist. With an approach to technique that is imaginative and proficient, Ruby has created a niche for herself in the art world of earthen elements. Her art objects employ texture, shape, and colour that have developed a language which is distinctly her own.
Rural Background to Being Urbane
Ruby Jhunjhunwala grew up running around glass blowers in her father’s factory in Dholpur, Rajasthan along the Chambal valley. She watched in awe as the glass blowers moulded and shaped the red hot molten glass with its thick fluid viscosity. Firing Furnaces, keeping them hot, fuelling them at correct intervals, alarms of temperature falling - were issues she saw her father experience regularly. Her young curious mind developed a scientific enquiry and she went on to fashion a creatively scientific outlook to all her work throughout her life.
Growing up in a small town in the time that Ruby did, a girl child’s exposures and explorations had limitations. Ruby however managed to engage with science, sports and the arts with equal enthusiasm. She not only excelled in her science subjects but also in needlework, batik, embroidery, knitting and crocheting. She represented the state of Rajasthan as a hockey player and was a district champion in volleyball. She also learnt folk dances of India and often participated in school performances.
This spectrum of exposures helped shape Ruby as a person and translated her varied experiences into her work as an artist. She managed to break the mould of a predetermined life of a girl child and went on to become a successful ceramic artist in a traditional society where pottery was considered the domain of men from a certain caste.
Professional Journey -From Glass to Ceramics
Ruby met the internationally renowned master ceramic Artist Daniel Rhodes while learning Yoga from late Shri Iyengar, and decided to go to ALFRED University ( upstate NY) for post graduation in glass blowing. However, completely bewitched by Daniel’s ceramic artistry, the budding glass blower became a confirmed POTTER.
In her two years there Ruby acquired the knowledge, skill and discipline her profession would demand; giving her a focus to which her whole being responded.
After her return to India, she interned at Delhi Blue Pottery under the guidance of ceramic masters Gurcharan and Mansimran Singhji. Here she was also privileged to meet many visiting artists like Nirmalaji Patwardhan, Devilalji and Daroz, Samir Das.
Marriage and the familial responsibilities that go with it brought a halt to Ruby’s wheel that had begun to turn with passionate creativity. During her isolation from the world of clay Ruby found other creative forms to keep her going.
Her dream of setting up a small pottery studio was finally realized when she met a father-son duo who were making small electric kilns, on a trip to US with her husband, Kishen. A dismantled kiln packed in a TV carton brought back to India got Ruby’s potter’s wheel turning again. Withstanding many challenges like acquiring the basic raw materials such as clay glaze minerals, the initial trials and errors and the resultant frustrations Ruby’s grit gradually gained her recognition as a noteworthy ceramic artist and thus began her long and fulfilling career.
Ruby continued to work from her Garage till the late eighties and shifted her work into a much bigger studio. Mansimran Singh came to Pune and helped build her first Fast Firing Olson Kiln. He even sat through her first few firing to teach her the nuances of stoking wood into the firebox. Over the years any well wishers helped; Kristine Micheal introduced her to a clay supplier, Daroz Panduranga provided positive criticism and Late Shiv Sood (famous Furnace designer) became her guide and mentor. His unit was a one stop provider for all equipment required. Ebrahim Chaney gave her liberty to scout around his factory for rarely available ceramic materials.
Always Moving Forward
In 1992 she started a small Art showroom, SURAJ ( the only one in Pune at that time) to display and sell not only her own works but also those of other artists.
A mishap with her electric Potter's wheel led Ruby to start working with slabs and coils.
In the early nineties a chance read of the book ‘Environmental Ceramics’ by Stan Bitters, inspired and introduced her to new avenues in the field of ceramics as wall art and led her on the path to execute murals. Today 35 years later she is committed to hand building and creating wall art and exhibits her work regularly.
Profile of the Artist
Maharani Gayatri Devi Circle Public School, Jaipur (Year)
B. Sc. In Statistics Honours from Fergusson College, Pune (Year)
Ceramic School, Alfred University, upstate New York. (Year)
Trained under renowned Ceramic Artist, Mr. Daniel Rhodes 1971-72
Trained under well known Indian ceramists Gurcharan Singhji and Mansimran Singhji of “Delhi Blue Art Pottery”. 1974