Objectry Longpi Black Stone Pottery - Rustic Dinnerware handmade by Manipuri artisans - Handcrafted made in India by homegrown indie brand and design studio in Delhi

Discover Objectry: Reviving The Manipuri Art Of Longpi Black Pottery

Design studio Objectry serves up a rustic special with pottery made out of Manipur’s fabled ‘black clay’

by Amish Behl

When I first saw Objectry’s black pottery tableware, I thought I was looking at props right out of a Game of Thrones set. You can’t blame me – the utensils are dark, rustic and so charmingly human. But it’s on learning more about where they came from that I could really appreciate how special they are.

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In a nutshell

Objectry – the brand

Objectry, a design studio founded in Delhi by Aanchal Goel and Sugandh Kumar, likes playing with natural materials to create everyday objects that are, at the very least, visually arresting. Using wood, metal and clay, they’ve made a variety of interesting things, from offbeat wall-clocks to lamps with a faceted wood base to a wooden speaker that amplifies solely through its material and construction. In terms of broad categories, they offer desk (stationery and storage), decor (lamps and planters) and kitchen (utensils and trays). Almost nothing in their product catalogue is ‘standard’ – each has its own quirk – but none of them feel like deliberate attempts to go against the grain. For me, that’s an important part of good design – for it to feel organic enough – and Objectry does not disappoint here.

Longpi pottery – the products before us

I chose Objectry’s Manipuri ‘Longpi’ black pottery items from their vast collection because, in their appearance, they are imperfectly-perfect – that’s what first caught my eye. Yet it got so much more engaging when I found out they were made by Manipuri artisans using materials and techniques completely local to the region and its people. It’s an age-old, generational craft that tribals first used to create cooking utensils for themselves, far before the advent of aluminium pots.

Longpi is the name of two Manipuri villages from where the craft and technique of making this black earthenware originates. The stone and clay used are together only found in this region. These pieces of Longpi pottery use nothing but natural materials and are totally handmade (all the way from moulding to firing), which makes each creation truly unique (more on all this below). And the rustic outcome lends them endearing simplicity and warmth. Almost as if they’re reminders to de-stress and untangle your life. If you’re a minimalist, you’re going to love it.

It’s always heartening when a homegrown, indie brand decides to be a kind of mini-custodian for anything traditional, whether it’s an art-form, craft, manufacturing process or material. Keeping cultural stuff like this alive may not seem like a huge deal at first, but in times of such pronounced homogeneity, these little things go a long way in connecting us to tangible objects at a more human level.

The process of making Longpi Black Stone Pottery by Manipuri Artisans - Rustic bowls

The basics

Objectry’s range of ‘Longpi’ black stone pottery

  • Material: Mixture of clay, weathered rocks and serpentinite rocks found in Manipur
  • Tableware available from Objectry: Plates, glasses, mugs, bowls
  • Usage and care: Microwave safe; stove safe; clean with lime after serving dairy products
  • Safety: Food safe; glaze free
  • Strength: Break resistant; between ceramic and terracotta in hardness

First impressions

There are quite a few visual and tactile sensations when one comes in contact with this black pottery – the slightly irregular shapes really draw you in. This isn’t so surprising because the human mind is wired to respond better to more natural, fluid lines. Lack of any glaze on the surface enhances the rustic character of this tableware, and this is felt even when you hold it or run your fingers around the edges. 

It’s worth noting that the black colour is all natural – Longpi pottery doesn’t have any added pigments or colours whatsoever. The result is a combination of the rocks and what the firing does to them after being moulded. Because it isn’t just one kind of rock, there are places where some pieces, at certain places, give off hints of dark brown, rust or charcoal grey – and I love that – just nature doing its thing. Firing, too, is in the open; lighting a fire outdoors rather than using industrial ovens.

All of these attributes come together to impress upon you how each piece is subtly different by virtue of being individually shaped by the hands of artisans. This is especially noticeable in pieces having the square texture. There’s also a subtle lustre to them – a special kind of leaf polishing is responsible for this. Oh, and here’s the kicker – there is no potter’s wheel, no moulds, no machines. Nothing except human hands go into bringing Longpi pottery to life. Artisanal is definitely up there on the list of most abused words nowadays, yet, to come across instances where we see its true meaning realised is always a good feeling.

Objectry Longpi Black Stone Pottery - Rustic Dinnerware handmade by Manipuri artisans - Handcrafted made in India by homegrown indie brand and design studio in Delhi

Living with Objectry’s black stone pottery

These aren’t decorative objects, of course, and the greatest joy was found in actually using them. In fact, I can’t help but look at Longpi pottery through a romantic lens, because eating from these bowls and plates inspires a certain kind of mindfulness and humility. Mindfulness about what is being consumed and humility stemming from a focus on things that really matter, induced by the real, raw, purpose-built nature of these utensils.

The honest, rustic character is so very pleasing and a welcome break from being surrounded by straight lines and cutting-edge modernity.

Visually, from the perspective of decor and vibe too, dishes served in Objectry’s Longpi dinnerware look great against the black, as their colours pop thanks to the contrast. These will look fabulous in homes and other settings designed with minimalism and nature in mind. Apart from what is shown, there are a number of other pieces in Objectry’s black pottery collection too. (Check them all out by clicking here)

Objectry Longpi Black Stone Pottery - Rustic Dinnerware handmade by Manipuri artisans - Handcrafted made in India by homegrown indie brand and design studio in Delhi

Other products in the Objectry catalogue

The brand’s catalogue is primarily divided into Desk, Decor and Kitchen. Going through Objectry’s offerings, there are a few common themes. Firstly, the designers really let the material shine. Secondly, the collection is a good mix of shapes, lines and curves. Most importantly, while they are minimalist in their approach, they still pack in enough character such that the minimalism isn’t IKEA-basic, if you know what I mean. And they’ve got consistency in their design language, so if you like one thing, you’ll probably end up liking many.

The Longpi pottery is just a part of what they do and isn’t an aesthetic representation of their overall collection. Objectry’s creations are all thoughtfully and tastefully designed without falling into binaries of vintage or modern, straight lines or natural shapes and the like. Natural materials do most of the talking with little twists given to make them usable and pleasing. It’s really worth checking out their full collection here.

The lamps, clocks, planters and desk items are particularly fun, while stuff in the decor section would make for great, unique gifts.

Objectry Handmade Design Studio Objects Review - Homegrown indie brand from Delhi making interesting, quirky homeware, decor, furniture. stationery

Snapshot of Objectry’s collections spanning metal, wood and stone

Buying and pricing

Pieces from Objectry’s Longpi black pottery collection are individually priced between ₹535 – ₹1,235. They can be purchased from their website Objectry.com. A set of 4 pieces (plate, shallow bowl, narrow bowl and glass) can also be bought together for ₹3,370, in plain or square texture variants.

Click here to see view everything from the Longpi pottery collection.

The brand also has a physical store on Delhi’s MG Road.

In general, I find the prices to be quite fair. And that’s really good to see with a brand that’s completely design-driven at heart.  Because quite often nowadays, thoughtful design ends up being aspirational for most. Big kudos to Objectry for not going down that road. 

Objectry Longpi Black Stone Pottery - Rustic Dinnerware handmade by Manipuri artisans - Handcrafted made in India by homegrown indie brand and design studio in Delhi

Summing up

The black pottery works so well on many levels. One, it is unique and handmade such that every time you pick it up you can feel its human character. Two, it is promoting a local art that is completely and so wonderfully in sync with nature. Lastly, these aren’t just decorative – you use them for food and drink. And in the process of consuming from them, there’s a certain joy derived from their sheer simplicity. Try having an ale in the black clay glass – you’ll know what I mean.

By buying Longpi pottery, you’re also supporting the ability of a community of people to take forward an ancient, indigenous craft and pass down its knowledge, while maintaining their unique cultural identity. It helps that the pottery itself oozes with charm.

Objectry is doing some very interesting design work in everyday, utilitarian objects without pushing them into the realm of inaccessibility. The brand is making distinctive products with potential to really add character to the spaces we inhabit. And with a collection of over 200 products, there are certainly some hidden gems left to be discovered.

Visit the brand’s website Objectry.com

What did you think of Objectry’s designs and the idea of Longpi black clay pottery? Something worth preserving, isn’t it? Let us know in the comments below. 

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