Claymen’s Aman Khanna tells us about how he came to discover and explore a medium like clay in his work
Trained as a graphic designer from London College of Communication, and having set up his design firm Infonauts in New Delhi and Infomen in London, after his graduation, Aman Khanna’s discovery of clay as a medium made him curious to explore it even more. Claymen is a result of this exploration, a collection of small sculptures that emerge from his observations of the common man and his dilemmas. We spoke to him about his experiments with clay and the inspirations that he draws from daily life.
How did your training as a graphic designer lead you to Claymen?
The design training opened my mind to a freethinking process. I think in visual forms ever since and I am very easily able to convert words into pictures, drawings, icons or characters as a result. From working in the two-dimensional world for over a decade, I decided to explore the third dimension by creating small sculptures in clay.
Tell us how your latest Spectator collection came to be?
Observers or spectators are Observers are a series of non-judgmental characters, they are silent, wise and they come in peace. Their simple expressions and silence is powerful; when you come face to face with them, they become a mirror and they compel you to self-reflect.
What, for you, has been a constant source of inspiration?
The medium itself is very inspirational for me. Mostly the inspiration comes from my thoughts, words, interactions, observations and the feelings I get from them.
How did you settle on clay as a medium of expression?
I was fixated on the idea of making a sculpture for the ‘Pictoplasma’ group show 2014 in Berlin. I tried my hands at wood initially but it didn’t work for me. Then I tried clay and the moment I put my hands into it, I just knew that I had found the love of my life. I feel clay is the most forgiving material and it gives me the freedom to mould my thoughts, observations and feelings into suitable forms.
Tell us about your process- how does a piece of work at Claymen develop from a sketch into a three dimensional piece?
Every now and then, certain thoughts, feelings and observations get stuck in my head. I would then have to address them by giving a shape or a form to them, before I can make peace with them. Sometimes the opposite happens, I would hand-mould a clay face and it would just look like a feeling I have had in the recent past and I would instantly give it a name. I personally like hand-moulding and for wheelwork, I take the help of a village potter, who makes basic shapes for me on the wheel according to my sketch and then I make faces on them. He also helps me to replicate them.
Is there any new material/ process that you have been experimenting with, of late?
The main medium remains clay. I have designed metal stilts, stands as an extension to the sculptures. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to clay, glazes, different firing techniques etc.; people spend a lifetime being involved in one of these processes. I have barely skimmed the surface.
As a graphic designer, you have worked on information design projects that help people make sense of large amounts of data. How do you see designers adding value today, in their role as information disseminators?
The basic principle to follow is to be able to simplify any given piece of information and create an understanding with the help of appropriate use of visual tools, like colour, typography, negative and positive space. Form must follow function but there is no limitation to where you can push the form. Just have to strike the right balance.
His Claymen series is extremely popular for pieces with faces that depict human emotions
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