Kumbharwada in Dharavi is an establishment of potters. It is around a hundred years old and forms the largest community of potters in Mumbai. The potters are originally from Saurashtra, Gujarat. Kumbhars means potter and wada colony, hence the name Kumbharwada - colony of potters. It occupies 9 hectare of land that houses around 1400 - 1500 families of which 700 - 800 still practice pottery today.

Here is where we found potters Nathalal N. Chauhan and Mitul N. Chauhan, father and son, running a family business (employing over 10 people) that goes back for already four generations. When we first met Mitul, he wanted to see our designs, saying: "We can make anything you want, just show me the designs." But that was exactly the challenge; we didn't have designs, we wanted to create these together with the potters.

When you walk through Daravi you realise how much tea there is being consumed. Everyone has their own way to drink chai, from a small cup, a glass or even from a saucer. One thing that is sure is that when handing it over, it will spill. And getting that precious chai back into your cup seems to be a national sport in Dharavi. That’s where we saw a great design opportunity to work together with the Kumbharwada potters and to come up with new products. Chai is part of India’s and definitely Dharavi’s identity and it only makes sense to start our exploration here. Besides the cups we also decided to create new water containers that are also widely used in Dharavi but always have the same shape.

We spent over 5 days with Nathalal and Mitul: first designing the cups and water containers, then making them, letting them dry, making handles for the cups, baking them and the last stage consisted of two days of painting.

While watching Nathalal's gentle head bop behind the potter's wheel (like he is playing an instrument) we had a lot of time to talk. Nathalal told us that they don't live in Dharavi anymore, but moved to the village where his father is from. So every day they have to travel for 80 km back and forth, roughly two hours by train. They also still use clay that comes from Morbi, a city in Gurajat.

And while talking about the company he almost became sentimental: "We are one big family. I see all my employees as my own sons". Spending so much time with them, we also felt a part of that small, happy family.

Are you interested in one of the water containers or cups? Contact Mitul N. Chauhan: / +91 9224877305