Meet Sabine Sanchez, a French national and now a Pondicherry resident, who talks about her passion for pottery
Sabine Sanchez never thought she’d give up a 15-year career in broadcasting, to learn and teach pottery in India. But an eye condition forced the French national to quit her job. “I visited many hospitals and took more than 30 tests, only for the doctors to say they didn’t have a clue about my problem, exophthalmos (bulging eyeballs).” She finally landed in Tiruvannamalai in 2013, to meet a Siddha doctor who she hoped would find a cure. When she found out the treatment would take two to three years, Sanchez decided to travel the country. Thanks to her father Serge Petrovitch, a painter (whose works are on display at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux), she had always been interested in arts. Hopping from place to place, she learnt carving from local artisans in Mahabalipuram, Mandala painting in Bodh Gaya and silver jewellery making in Goa.
Sanchez then decided to learn pottery. “Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated by the (potter’s) wheel. I remember seeing it on TV and wanting to try it,” she says. Skimming the internet, she came across Ray Meeker and Deborah Smith’s popular pottery school, Golden Bridge Pottery, in Pondicherry. In April 2014, she enrolled for the seven-month intensive workshop taught by New York-based ceramic artist, Sarah Camille Wilson. “Six days a week, eight hours a day, and add to that the Pondicherry heat! I used to get so exhausted,” she recalls. Sanchez assiduously learnt the basics of the ceramic art—throwing (the clay on the wheel), pulling (to give the clay shape), baking (in a wood-fired kiln) and glazing (for colour and a glossy finish). After the course, she began making little Ganesha idols and moulding bowls and cups.
Learn to mould
Now she plans to teach the art to children and adults at Sita Cultural Center. Her Discovery classes will teach the basics of the wheel and the pinch-and-mould technique, while at her one-day workshops, she will initiate participants to the slab and coil techniques. So what next for Sanchez? “When my medical visa expires next year, I will return to Paris and teach ceramic art,” she says. “I also plan to go to Morocco and Tuscany to learn their style,” she concludes.
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— Ranjitha G