A yellow funky monster is sitting on a shelf with its dangling legs to welcome visitors at the entrance to the Clay Station Dhaka. It is not alone. A little pale green frog is accompanying it.
A miniature camera, a car, and many other things are there on the display, and they are spreading a positive vibe around the studio. Like those miniatures, a few ceramic utensils – both hand- and wheel-made – are also available there on the shelf.
Most importantly, it is possible to get customised items at the studio.
Those who is looking for aesthetic and customised utensils which will embellish the beauty of their home, Clay Station Dhaka is a great place to explore. It offers people utensils of shapes, colours, and designs of their choice.
The master ceramists of Clay Station Dhaka are ready to shape the visitors' dreams. The best part about the studio is that people can become artists and make those utensils themselves under experts' supervision, if they want.
"A few of our clients come here with plans and designs to make their own utensils. With time, they learn to shape, and improvise. It is very satisfying to watch them," said Syeda Sharmin Ahmed, founder of Clay Station Dhaka.
In 2016, the art studio started its journey in the capital's Banani where it offered a lakeside view. Last month, it shifted to the United City in Madani Avenue at a wide, open, and happening place. Since opening, it has been a great place for many people to find mental peace, and get over depression and anxiety.
On condition of anonymity, a famous model and actress told The Business Standard Clay Station Dhaka had been her saviour during her dark days.
"I had chronic depression when I came here. They offered art courses. Since I started their long courses, my condition improved. Now, I am doing completely fine," she said.
Currently, the art studio is offering two courses. A six-session course titled Introduction to Free Hand costs Tk6,500 for children and Tk8,500 for adults. The other course, Throw at Wheel, is priced at Tk6,500 for both children and adults.
Besides the courses, three different services are available on an hourly basis for visitors.
In the Pick and Paint session, one can enjoy the fun of pottery painting with all the bright colours. Mostly children and adults who are not comfortable with clay but still want to enjoy light recreation can start with this.
But in the play with clay session, one can make different stuff according to their wish. From monster to moon to star – everything is welcome. It does not have to be something artistic. Rather, enjoying the art in a funny way is the objective of taking this service.
So, whatever visitors create will be known as fun art and not fine art. It is going to cost Tk500 per hour. In the end, approximately a week later, visitors can paint and take their pieces of creativity with them, which comes with an extra charge.
Last but not the least, Throw at Wheel is available for making customised utensils. From bottle to bowl, one can make anything that can possibly be made using wheels. This service is open for both individuals and couples at Tk800 and Tk1,500 respectively for an hour.
Sharmin revealed the purpose behind opening a place like Clay Station Dhaka. She said, "I have realised that Dhaka people do not have lots of places for recreation, apart from eating in restaurants. However, food is not enough to feed the soul."
"So, we wanted to offer something that would soothe people's minds and keep them away from the daily anxiety. Actually, it is a place where one can spend time alone and with family as well to create and deepen bonds."
Neither Sharmin nor the co-founder, Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, has any academic knowledge about ceramics. It has been a tough journey since they started.
Reaching the artists, designing the courses, importing all the tools and ingredients from abroad, setting all those up, and creating a target market – the process took a long time. As it takes a lot of money to import all those expensive items, the studio is just getting by.
Sharmin's previous work experience helped her make plans and execute them to build the studio. Robiul Hossain, a ceramist of the studio, helped the two founders select other ceramists and design the courses.
The studio is also helping artists explore art.
"We do not have lots of places to learn, work, and explore. This studio is offering me a few great features. I am using all the advanced tools and environment-friendly ingredients. If a few more studios like this open in Bangladesh, it will help artists in the long run," said Kamrun Nahar Pakhi, an artist at Clay Station Dhaka.
Recently, the studio is becoming more popular as a recreational hub. In the beginning, people did not understand the concept and considered it too expensive.
"This happened because people in our country think art is not for sale and artists do not need money. Therefore, our prices seemed too high to them. We understood their concern, and later changed the prices several times until people felt comfortable," remarked Sharmin.
Now, the scenario has changed. Along with individuals, different corporate organisations are also showing interest and asking for different team building workshops to enhance bonding among employees and helping them rejuvenate their souls, and get over depression and anxiety.
As a result, orders reached a peak amid the pandemic. In the beginning of April, the founders thought of closing the business for a while, but clients' interest helped them sustain and continue online by sending parcels containing ingredients.
"We are happy that we could help a good number of people in this critical time. This helped us survive as well," said Sayeed.
The founders are not thinking about opening any branch as the studio might lose its appeal and authenticity in that case. Rather, they want to open small franchises in different offices and schools to make pottery popular.
"Crafting pottery enhances creativity, communication skills, and confidence. It helps one grow. We are working on to include pottery in our extracurricular activities," Sayeed added.