Harpreet Ahluwalia on a shopping outing began interacting with the neighbourhood potters and realised that the matka-makers, who belonged to the lowest strata of the society, wanted to leave the profession since easy affordability of refrigerators made matkas quite obsolete. Harpreet didn’t have pity for them; she had a plan and soon the interactions led to a collaboration where Harpreet provided the designs and the potters executed them.
The initial few products were well appreciated, which meant orders started flowing in. But there were roadblocks. “The potters didn’t understand the concept of deadlines, and quality control was a huge issue. They would mix materials to bring down the cost. So, I began to spend a lot of time with them to understand the whole process of making and costing. I learnt the nuances and then struck a balance between the designs, orders, labour and profitability. Gradually things fell in place. I began working with one potter family and a decade later, I have with me over 40 families across India who are happily pursuing the art and craft of pottery,” says the 55-year-old founder of Earthly Creations.
But the relationship didn’t stay restricted to business aspects only. “The NDA government’s plans and policies came much later but I started to educate the potters about the ill-effects of open defecation and importance of girl child’s education. I even funded the education of many girls. The women in their community never enjoyed any sense of equality and so I taught them a bit about gender parity,” she says.
But what really got her so involved with environmental conservation? Well, the answer is in her growing up years. With her father working in the fertiliser industry, Harpreet grew up in Chhattisgarh with access to large farms. Then she went to study in Chandigarh and Udaipur, two very green cities. It was after marriage when she shifted to Delhi that she began to miss her gardens. Soon she shifted to Noida in search of larger space to indulge her love for gardens. “I had great passion for gardening and was always fascinated by pottery. I love animals and since I couldn’t bring all of them in my garden, I got animal-shaped pots,” says Harpreet, who quit her established corporate career for her passion.
Later she also studied Feng Shui and Vaastu for better marketability of her products. She adds, “I didn’t want people to throw out the pot and plant along with it as some priest suggested so. Also with apartments, the notion that gardening is something done outside the house, got demolished. So, my creations had to be so contemporary that they could seamlessly blend into the home décor. Recently, I came up with an automobile collection where the planters were in shape of scooters and cars.” The items range from four inches to three feet tall and cost between Rs 200 to Rs 10,000 and are widely used as gifting options.
Apart from helping potters with their livelihood, her larger goals in life include promotion of biodegradable items and sensitising people about the needs of flora and fauna around us. “Ninety per cent of my works are on terracotta and we always use water-based colours,” says the woman with more than a thousand chrysanthemum pots on her terrace garden....