Everytime I upload a picture of my pot, I know to expect messages. "Nice pottery." "Where did you get that?" "I want one." I wanted one too for years before I tracked down the man behind them at a weekend food market in Pune. I bought one and demanded an interview for my blog.
A few weeks later I found myself at Ninad’s workshop in Camp (Pune’s military jurisdiction) filled with pottery and pets. There were dogs everywhere, and I mean everywhere, over 60 at current count as Ninad also runs a shelter for strays, the Prani Seva Ashram.
His sprawling workshop is filled with bays for mixing clay, kilns of different sizes (some made himself), and several working areas, I spot everything from fountains and sculptures to cups and saucers, with glazes in gorgeous colours. His staff are throwing pots on the wheel, detailing teapots, adding glazes to dishes.
“I’ve done some regressions and found out I was a potter in Mohenjodaro.” Ninad tells me when I ask about his beginnings as a potter. As a industrial engineering student, Ninad got into glass printing when his peers got into huge industries much to the chagrin of his HOD, enjoyed research and development and figured out how to make glass inks for bottles in India but then plastic invaded the Indian market.*
“Glass and ceramics are brothers and sisters,” he explains. He taught himself pottery 25 years ago on a wheel he created himself and has been working in the medium since.
But Ninad is not your average ceramicist, he's an inventor and eco-activist. He makes water dispensers that do not use epoxy sealants, and tealight candles that are wonderfully sustainable. Made from clay and soy wax, they are biodegradable and create zero waste, but they're also unfired so no energy has gone into making them. He hopes they will become an alternative for regular aluminium tealight candles and has priced it to match. He even sells DIY candle making kits so you can create your own at home.
He's probably most famous for his pots and pans, or his beautiful bio-ceramic stoneware that everybody seems to love. To be fair, they're beauties and I love them because they go straight from the stovetop to the table to the fridge. Ninad explains that they're sintered at over 1300 C with a permanent mineral glaze to last forever, they energise food with infrared rays and help it retain its nutritional values. Ninad makes pots, pans, tavas and even a tagine-like natural pressure cooker. He will be soon launching and therefore, I will soon be buying a steamer.
His newest invention is a new patent-pending cooking stove lit by 108 wicks (with 9 visible) and runs using vegetable oil, has a more suitable flame than the blue “industrial” flame from our gas stoves and produces no soot or smoke. Best of all it’s low cost. Wicks can be replaced every month for just Rs. 30 and can also be used with leftover oil.
What I like about Ninad is his approach to his innovations. He designs both scientifically and holistically, often out of need, crafting objects that are functional, safe to use, environmentally friendly, focused on wellness and better than their existing alternative.
You can purchase Ninad’s pottery online (shipping is per actuals within India) or by visiting him at his workshop. If you would like to support Prani Seva Ashram, get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
* ruining EVERYTHING!