Jyotsna Jyoti Bhatt

6 March 1940 - 11 July 2020

‘Queen of studio pottery’ Jyotsna Bhatt passed away at her home in Baroda on Saturday, July 11. She was 80 years old.

Bhatt was one of India’s best known ceramic artists, with a career spanning five decades.  She studied and taught at the MS University in Baroda (where her husband and renowned artist Jyoti Bhatt also taught) for four decades. She taught and mentored generations of young ceramicists before retiring in 2002 as the head of the Department of Ceramics. 

Smiling cats of stoneware, flowers, buds and other elements of nature populated her work. She used earth tones, moss green and especially teal to colour her works. She wanted to give them “a more natural touch”.

But her practice was also all about the materials. Alkaline earths, amorphous moulds and layer upon layer of matte glazes would make it to her kiln, in the pursuit of a fine-tuned finish. 

She had a preference for matte and satin matte glazes. She liked their mottled colour tones, she said. But she also sent some of her work into the fire kiln (as opposed to reduction firing in a gas kiln), and she let the ash and flames do a number on them. “[They] enhance the forms, so I let them be open body (without any glaze or glossy surface,” Architectural Digest has reported her saying.

Jyotsna Bhatt was born in Kutch. She did a stint at the JJ School of Arts in Bombay, before she moved to Baroda in 1958, where she learnt sculpture under the late professor Sankho Chaudhuri. 

She married Jyoti Bhatt, who was a student of the first batch of fine arts at MS University, and moved to New York with him. While there, she joined the Brooklyn Museum Art School for a course in ceramics. This was a turning point for her, where her knowledge of sculpture and passion for ceramics came together, and started her career in sculptural pottery.