Travel: ceramic artist Tim Isaac's trip to India
I featured Tim Isaac just last week as part of the #100NBartists post about 4 ceramics artists from Issue #4. Tim is one of those artists who loves to travel as often as they can to see the world and glean inspiration for their creative work. I've been in touch with Tim about sharing some of his travels, and he decided to talk about when he recently traveled to India with his partner Nina to visit her family. This was Tim's first trip to India, and they traveled with her family and also by themselves, spending some time in Chandigarh (state of Punjab) where he met Nina’s many cousins, aunts and uncles. I love his photos, the colours and experiences show a little snapshot of what it's like to live in India. It definitely makes me want to go there and wash an elephant. And ride on a scooter with a monkey.
Thanks Tim for sharing about your trip with us! Let me know when you go on your next epic adventure ;)
All photos by Tim Isaac.
What was a favourite experience from this trip?
Honestly, it’s hard to come up with just one experience. It may be the morning I helped scrub down a temple elephant while it lay in the river that runs through the ancient village of Hampi. It’s a place with magnificent temple ruins in a surreal landscape of giant round boulders perched precariously all around. Another favourite experience was spending time with Nina’s extended family. They were so generous, warm and welcoming towards me. I’ll never forget the night I spent with Nina’s cousins and they helped me put on a Sikh turban. Now that was both an education and a hoot.
A fisherman with his gear heading out with his basic log boat . This was in Kerala, on the Arabian Sea (west coast).
Women waiting for a ferry to cross the river at Hampi.
Morning milk delivery.
Colorful hand-made shoes displayed for sale at a market
We chanced upon a religious parade in Varkala, possibly the most colorful and elaborate parade I’ve ever seen with dancers, elephants, musicians, and larger than life mechanical depictions of classic Hindu deities and mythology.
What is the food like?
In a word - fabulous! We travelled through a few different regions, so the dishes varied quite a lot. Every day was filled with delicious, fragrant meals. I mean, this truly is the land of spice. Steaming rice, roasted cumin, cinnamon sticks in hot oil, fresh naan….you get the idea. I’m not shy about street snacks either and I enjoyed all kinds of exotic treats. Sometimes I wouldn’t have a clue what I was eating, but if there was a crowd of people around the vendor, I’d just line up and try it out.
How often do you like to travel?
A benefit of being self employed is having a fairly flexible work schedule. I may not have a dental plan, paid sick days or a company pension to look forward to, but if I work my butt off spring, summer and fall I can usually get away for a couple months each winter. This work / travel pattern started many years ago when I first started potting. My trips then were to Mexico, Indonesia, Galapagos Islands, and Central America.
My first experience wearing a Sikh turban, patiently helped by cousin Manu. Talk about an impressive skill!
Scooters were a great way to get around…sometimes with unexpected passengers! Photo taken near Hampi.
Spice vendor measuring out a sale at a market.
This is a traditional round boat called a coracle, used to get around and carry goods at Hampi. They are at least 6 feet in diameter and can hold an impressive cargo (multiple sheep, motor bikes, 6-8 people).
Washing the temple elephant in Hampi. We were instructed to rub it hard with pumice rocks. It was simply an amazing experience.
Nina with some boys we met while on a walk outside of Hampi. There was no shortage of smiling friendly children!
How does travelling influence your artwork?
I find travelling incredibly stimulating. It can be exhausting, but it also rejuvinates me. Foreign architecture, different design sensibilities and aesthetics, clothing, traditional crafts - all these visuals of a foreign culture roll around in my mind and imagination for a long time. While I don’t usually make 90 degree turns in my work because of what I’ve seen, I know I am positively influenced and inspired by what others have done historically and are still doing throughout the world.
I see and meet many artisans in countries where their skills are still valued. The kinship and respect I feel for these people who work with their hands also affirms my own choice of occupation and simple lifestyle.
What kind of inspiration did you glean from this particular trip?
A strong sense of spirituality pervades Indian culture. It’s displayed in their religious practices, their buildings and temple art, their daily rituals - everywhere really. After this trip I was left with the feeling that I wanted to infuse a deeper meaning into my work. I began to explore the theme of the Mandala using both clay and natural elements, seeking a harmonious balance in my work that is meditative and contemplative.
An artisan chiselling designs into tiles. He and others were working to restore some details at a Hindu temple in Chandigarh. Dusty and difficult work.
Walks in the countryside and watching people go about their lives was fascinating. Traditional methods are still used a lot, like these oxen working to prepare a rice field for planting.
Nina & I at the fabulous Taj Mahal, the 'jewel of Muslim art in India’. The engineering, material, skill and artistry that went into this 17th century mausoleum at Agra is truly breathtaking.