After spending a few hours at the Clay Station, Namira Hossain writes about her experience of playing with clay
In a road tucked away on the side streets of Banani, lies an inconspicuous two-storey, white building that guards one of Dhaka’s best kept secrets. Perhaps not such a big secret anymore – having hosted a few corporate events, birthday parties, workshops as well as being featured in the media. In its short time of operation since October 2016, Clay Station has won over hardened Dhakaites for providing a form of recreation that does not involve food. The grilled front entrance of the white-washed building is out of sight from the road and one has to take a short turn, at the corner of the road where the lake is, to spot it. From an outsider’s point of view, it looks like a cafe or a store, with the name ‘Clay Station’ emblazoned on the glass window.
Having spoken with Sharmin Ahmed, the founder, about how she came to discover clay, I was excited to try my first session or ‘recreation’ as she calls it. Ahmed said her first encounter with clay occurred during a trip to the US where she experienced people painting pottery. She was amazed at how this activity brought so many people of different ages together. The biggest appeal however was that everyone was focused on what they were doing rather than being engrossed in their phones or tabs. Having worked in the private sector, Ahmed was yearning to give back to the community – and that is where she got the inspiration from.
‘I want to address different social causes I am interested in – autism, animals, drug rehabilitation and give people a space and resources to address those issues,’ says Ahmed. And so began the new journey of Clay Station in Dhaka.
Ceramics is actually one of the most ancient art forms, as humans first discovered the malleability and durability of clay. Also since it was widely available, pottery was independently invented in different parts of the world around the same time. Nowadays, it is regaining popularity as people are realising the therapeutic effects of playing with clay – seeing that it has proven benefits for child development and also as stress relief for adults. Artistic expression in itself that allows for a creating of something new, something which can be abstract, yet an artist will maintain that they have all put a bit of soul into their work. Pottery is not so different from painting or sketching or writing in the sense that it enables the space for the artist to project their emotions into their body of work.
Upon entering Clay Station, one can see various little objects that have already been made by others who have visited the premises, and also others such as home decor and jewelry that are for sale. The objects made by others are varied in nature, from little ring-holders, to pen stands, and pots to keep plants in – all in the shape of different animals, skulls, leaves etc. There are three recreational activities one can choose from at Clay Station – Pick and Paint, Play with Clay and Throw at Wheel. I picked Play with Clay as I wanted to experience the feel of it in my hands.
The tactile nature of clay makes it very soothing and cool to the touch and it feels as though it is meant to be moulded by human hands. I was accompanied by a five year old and we were assisted by the artist who also teaches in Charukola.
The artist, Jewel brought forth models for us to replicate and we spent the hour trying to mould the clay and bring it to shape. I ended up making an elephant that will double as a ring holder and my companion made a dinosaur, a cat and a fish.
The most beautiful thing about the Friday afternoon we spent at Clay Station was that we got to create something and spend time without being distracted by the stresses of everyday life or phones. Next time, you are looking around for an activity that is calming and thoroughly enjoyable as well as having great benefits – give Clay Station a try.