A Project With Ektara

My work on the Elements project really whetted my appetite for more exploration in creating temporary, collaborative sculpture in which the viewer’s participation becomes an integral part of the work.  I began developing ideas for new projects while observing preparations at Kumartuli for Saraswati Puja.  Then after returning from my trip to Molela and Nathdwara, I searched Kolkata for potential venues and partners.

Curator and social entrepreneur Nandita Palchoudhuri connected me with charitable organization Ek Tara, located in the Kolkata neighborhood of Topsia.  Thanks Nandita!!!


Ek Tara provides opportunities for education and vocational training for more than 500 children and women who reside in the Topsia and Tiljala area.

For our March 2015 project together, I created a four foot tall head in straw and bamboo.  In an exciting two-day workshop, fifty Ek Tara students gleefully and tenderly covered the large head form with imagery in clay.

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Working with fifty children on a project takes tremendous organization!  Not only were the wonderful Ek Tara  instructors and helpers on hand to smooth the process, but Fulbright-Nehru Student Scholar Julie Schofield‘s assistance was invaluable to me, as she entertained the children who were waiting to take their turn in working on the sculpture.

Fulbright-Nehru Scholar Julie Schofield with Ek Tara children

The sculpture’s title, Lucky Indian Forest, comes from the children. They had been asked to bring forth ideas for a title as they worked to build up the image-laden surface of animal figures and traditional designs, using clay press molds I created for them, and traditional sandesh molds from Kalighat.





What a great project!   Children and adults alike were enthusiastic and happy. The camaraderie was fantastic.  I hope to do many more projects like this one.

Lucky Indian Forest” Named by the children of Ek Tara
Children covering the straw and bamboo head with clay imagery.


“Lucky Indian Forest” at Gallery Sanskriti in April 2015.   Ambica Beri, gallerist, in center,  Anita Kanoi, Ek Tara trustee, on right.




Mishty Magic

Please forgive me the transgression of diverting us from all things clay sculptural, and indulge me in a bit o’discourse regarding one of my favorite parts of Bengali culture – Mishty.

Mishty is the Bengali word for sweet and is also the word for a dizzying variety of sweet foods that are made with nuts and/or milk products combined with spices and other flavorings.  Mishty shops are everywhere in Kolkata, and are a cause for wonder— if one stops to think about the sheer output of sweets in relation to the number of people available to eat them!  In any case, it’s not long into a conversation with a Bengali before they assert the superiority of Bengali sweets over all others.   While I won’t comment any more about that, I will definitively say that mishty are delicious!!

I favored one shop in particular, which was on the way to a studio where I worked occasionally.  The name is Balaram and Mullick’s, as pictured below, at the Bhawanipore location where they have been in business since 1885.

Mishty Magic since 1885
The store manager and great-grandson of the founder.
Fresh kulfi (ice cream) is served with a variety of toppings.
Always full of customers  DSC_0171

Oh, yum.

Rasgullah, sandesh, kheer, chamcham, chenna, chandra, kalakund, gulab jamun, ladoo —even in seven months of living here, I fear that there will not be enough time to try everything.   I have made a solemn promise to myself to learn to make the mishty doi (sweet yogurt) when I return to Santa Cruz.  For the rest, I’ll just need to return to Kolkata!