Experiment with pottery and screen printing at this Chennai studio

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Few places bear their name as well as Studio Serendip. I stroll through the airy indoor and outdoor space and follow the sound of laughter to a lush green lawn where a group of adults creatively get their hands dirty by spinning wheels of pottery. The garden is in full bloom with bananas, ginger flowers and heliconias, with more pops of color offered by brightly colored fish in a koi pond.

The pottery students are the latest among more than 280 adult learners who have signed up for short but focused art classes at Studio Serendip, Kotturpuram. Classes are all taught by artists, and upcoming classes over the summer include pottery, screen printing, 3D sculpting, and cyanotype.

Serendip Studio
| Photo credit: special arrangement

Sara Vetteth launched Studio Serendip in early 2021, after the first lockdown, to restore creative balance to the city. Vetteth is an artpreneur who also founded RainbowFish Studio, the in-school and after-school art program, and the non-profit Indian Art and Design Educators Association.

As for Studio Serendip, Vetteth is clear about its DNA – no one-day classes or art birthdays, for example. This is a space for adult enrichment classes that provide deeper artistic engagement, not one-time experiences. “The Serendip studio belongs to the artist,” says Vetteth, who designed it as a safe space where artist-teachers and adult learners come together to explore their creativity.

Each course lasts 10 sessions, either once or twice a week, and costs around ₹1,200 per session. According to Vetteth, “At the end of a course, learners will have the skills and confidence to continue building on their learnings.”

This is the case of Shrishti Selvam, a freelance artist/graphic designer, who had fun learning “the whole process of screen printing, down to the smallest detail, during my five days there”. She has since purchased the necessary equipment to continue printing at home.

The reasons for taking an art enrichment course are often just to relax. Dr Vignesh Srinivasalu, who works at the ICMR – National Institute for Tuberculosis Research, says the pottery classes are “extremely therapeutic and help clear my mind”.

As the classes progressed, however, “in a strange way, I ended up transferring a lot of the techniques and skills I learned as a doctor to my pottery and sculpture.”

Pottery is one of the most popular courses here, currently in its 32nd batch of beginners with ceramicist Thiagarajan. He says, “I have benefited immensely from teaching here during the pandemic; it gave me the chance to continue my artistic practice when the schools were closed.

Artistic collaborations inside and outside the studio are unanticipated but happy outcomes of this creative hub. Studio Serendip manager Niranjana Jawahar shares how an interior designer and a textile manufacturer found themselves in the same Screen Printing 101 class. Their common interests got them talking and they are currently working on a design project together.

Vetteth is pragmatic about the project: “Such classes are only viable if you don’t want to ‘make money’ from them. At Serendip, two-thirds of the stamps are donated to the artist, the rest is just used to run the place. Vetteth owns the premises of Studio Serendip and does not charge artists any fees to use the space.

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