By Vedesh Nath. Moulding deeyas out of clay is one of the many traditions brought by our Indian forefathers to Trinidad as they practised and fulfilled their religious Hindu principles. Passing through generations in the Ticklal family, it is now Makh’s responsibility to maintain and uphold the pottery custom that has settled with him.
Upon entering Makh’s Pottery Shop at #3 Ghany Street, Edinburgh in Chaguanas, there were hundreds of deeyas bathing in the heat of the sun in the family’s front yard. These revealed the earthiness and nature of his work. But, the couple hundreds drying at the front is nothing compared to what’s inside.
When asked what can he make with clay he says, “Anything you want – clay pots for plants, incense holders, water fountains – anything you want”. Makh, age 31 and proud father of two, brags about diversifying the business and moving away from only making deeyas.
From deeyas for Divali to Ticklal family’s business
Makh remembers helping out his mother and father from the very young age of six to make deeyas during Divali time. But, what was merely a religious functionality to the original Ticklals was transformed into a business by Makh’s parents, Jutram and Prema Ticklal. This stands as the main avenue from which the family earns an income.
Sadly, both of Makh’s parents have passed away, but are remembered by the banner devotedly pinned on the wall behind his work station. The business is now run by Makh and his wife, Stacy.
The pottery making process
Makh spends the interview behind his potter’s wheel and divulges information on the art of pottery making. He says that the clay, which is dug by tractors from his own land in Carsen Fields, is brought to his back-shed and soaked overnight in water. The clay is then sorted into soft clay and hard clay. The soft clay is placed in a pugmill to knead while the hard clay is re-soaked for a few hours to soften. After the soft clay is kneaded he portions it into manageable moulds to craft on his potter’s wheel.
Today, Makh has the luxury of using an electric wheel which he himself made. He remembers the early days where a wheel made out of stone had a thick piece of wood stuck in between. It required two persons to operate, one turning the wheel with the stick whilst the other forming the clay, a very gruelling procedure.
He says work became slightly easier when a handle was devised for the potter’s wheel allowing one person to handle it. Now, an electric motor has been connected to operate the wheel by the flick of a switch. This allows Makh more time to focus on the art itself. He moulds the pottery in his palms on the spinning wheel, dips his fingers in water, and pastes it tenderly on the mould to ensure perfect formation.
Drying the deeyas and other items
Once properly formed, a shawnee (piece of string) is used to separate his creation from the mother-mould and set aside to dry. He says the key to drying the deeyas and the many other items is hot sun. He has a large exterior-oven behind his house which he uses in the event of bad weather, but he says it can take twice as long – slowing down his process.
Whilst observing a well-detailed hut made entirely out of clay, a man enters zealously with a request. His daughter has a school assignment to make a chulha (dirt oven). Makh contemplatively and scientifically informs the man of the amount of clay he needs and the process of making and drying the chulha – advice that a university graduate may not be able to give.
Ticklal legacy lives on in the pottery shop
Makh has faint memories of his Aja and Ajee (respectively grandfather and grandmother from his father’s side) who would have come to Trinidad in search of a better life as indentured labourers like many others. Though Makh’s memory of them is nothing but a sweet, distant dream laid to rest – their legacy lives on in the pottery shop.
The shop has been dubbed “de home of deeyas” and patrons continue to flock to get some of the best quality deeyas and pottery. Makh may be contacted at 671-3722 or 396-5049. You really can get anything you want out of clay at Makh’s!
August 2017 www.sweettntmagazine.com
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