A Clay Pottery Dynasty In Chase Village

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Traditionally Chase Village in Chaguanas, Trinidad has been synonymous with Clay pottery. Years ago as you drove along the Southern Main Road you would have seen a string of pottery shops. Today we found three.

We were actually out looking for Radika’s Pottery which from our research seemed to be the most popular. The three shops we found are owned by Radika’s sons Clive, Andy and Donny. Radika sadly passed away in 2007. She inherited the business from her father Ticklal Seecharan. Her grandfather came from India and slowly built the business. Today her sons dominate the clay pottery business in Chase Village.

The location of traditional pottery in the area is no mistake. The “sapatay” mud that the industry relies on comes from close by in Carlson Field. The supply seems to be unlimited if we take workers’ comments seriously. Andy Benny in an interview with the Newsday indicated that the clay has proven to be ideal, it is pliable and able to take the heat in the kiln.

We found Clive first just north of the Chase Village “triangle”. We had a lovely chat but he directed us to his brother Andy with instructions to go in “the back” to see the potters and oven. Two traffic lights north later we found Andy’s shop “Radika’s Pottery” on the left. You cannot miss it, there is a big sign facing the road. Donny’s Pottery is just a little further north on the right.

Two of the pottery Shops in Chase Village - Clive Benny and Radika's

Two of the Pottery Shops in Chase Village – Clive Benny and Radika’s

This is a family business. No fuss. There was no issue with us asking to see the potters or take pictures. They seemed quite accustomed to people visiting. As you can see in the image below it was a very casual easy going atmosphere. Radika’s had two potters at work while we were there – one of which is in the image.

There was also the largest pile of deyas I had ever seen. For those of you that may not know, deyas are small clay pots about two inches in diameter and one inch in height used to hold oil and a wick. They are used to “light-up” for the Hindu festival of Divali. Thousands of deyas are produced each year for Divali.

Getting ready for Divali - The largest pile of Deyas ever

Getting ready for Divali – The largest pile of Deyas ever

The process of pottery is deceptively simple. Once extracted the clay is soaked, dried and sifted. It is mechanically kneaded and then moulded by hand on a spinning wheel. This is where simple turns to amazing. You watch this person take two hands – just like yours- and turn a lump of clay into these perfectly balanced pots. This is messy, labour intensive work which is hard on the hands and back and they make it seem so simple.

The clay kneading machine and it looked like it had done a lot of kneading

The clay kneading machine and it looked like it had done a lot of kneading

Potter at Radika's working on a bowl

Working on a pot at Radika’s

Check out the process of producing one pot from start to finish on the pottery wheel at Donny’s Pottery. (Video Courtesy Donny’s Pottery via YouTube)

Walking into the back of Radika’s was like stepping back in time. You get the impression that the shop has looked and functioned like this for a very long time. There are piles of unbaked pots around and as you walk further back through the pots you are faced with the open fire. There is no kiln here. It is an open wood burning fire. They use scrap wood to fuel it and it can burn for 24 hours.

Going in the back between stacks of unbaked pottery and feeling the heat of the fire

Going in the back between stacks of unbaked pottery and feeling the heat of the fire

A wide range of clay pots and saucers are produced. There mobiles, candle holders, coffee pots – you name it. Most Trinidadians have at least one of these items in their homes. There were many things I could have purchased in that store front and I plan to go back soon. I also learnt that they will make anything on order for you – simply provide them with a pattern. That got me to thinking………

A selection of Pottery from Radika's

A selection of Pottery from Radika’s

Contact Information:
Radika’s Pottery -Andy Benny 183 Edinburgh Village, Trinidad
Telephone: (868) 665-4267 / (868) 789-4089