Instant Joy

Instant Joy

Charan Sachar Butter Dishes

Sachar’s signature item, these butter dishes are inspired by the shape of decorative handbags; he calls them a “good combination of function and beauty.”

Charan Sachar

Charan Sachar’s ceramics look like the Bollywood movie musicals he grew up watching and still loves: joyful and exuberant, a riot of vivid color and pattern. 

“I think if they analyzed my dreams, they would find pattern on pattern on pattern,” laughs Sachar, 40, who makes mugs, bowls, platters, and other everyday wares by hand in his studio near Seattle. By “doodling” on each piece with slip, as if drawing a henna tattoo or decorating a cake (he once thought of becoming a pastry chef), he creates a textured surface of tiny swirls, dots, and floral motifs, inspired by the traditional embroidered fabrics and fashions of India. 

“My work is really about expressing the feeling that comes when you touch fabric,” Sachar says. As a teenager in Mumbai, he helped out in his mother’s fabric and design shop, which catered to bridal parties. “In an Indian wedding, the bridesmaids do not have matching outfits,” he explains. “They all keep it a big secret as 

to what they’re going to wear for the wedding. They have to work with the designer and the boutique people to have it be completely unique, in a color nobody else is going to wear.” 

Back then he rolled his eyes at the endless discussions of dress details he overheard (“ ‘Why is she unhappy with the blue?’ ‘It’s not the right blue!’ It drove me insane!”). Today, however, that influence is manifest in the sheer zingy variety of colors and patterns in his line, which allows customers to mix and match. One woman commissioned an entire dinner set with no two plates alike, which made for quite a table, Sachar says: “It was like this whole family at an Indian wedding.” 

As playful as his aesthetic may be, Sachar takes a methodical, analytical approach to his work, constantly testing new forms, glaze formulas, and color combinations. (Only the slip decoration, he says, is freehand, improvisational.) He honed these problem-solving skills in a former career: After coming to the United States to get his master’s degree in computer science, he spent more than a decade working as a software engineer at Intel. During that time he took up pottery at a local co-op, and the hobby quickly became his obsession. In 2011, he took a leap of faith and quit his day job to become a full-time artist, a decision that, he says, brought him “instant joy.” 

His advice to someone considering a similar switch? “You want to do this because you’re passionate about it, but there are more aspects to it than just making. You can do beautiful work, but if you can’t figure out a way to sell it, it’s basically collecting dust in your studio.” Happily, he finds he genuinely enjoys the business end of his work, whether it’s dealing with galleries, interacting with customers at craft fairs, blogging, or maintaining his Etsy store. It’s easier than you think, he says, when you’re doing something you love. 

“You get surprised by your potential, once you focus 100 percent on this one thing you want to achieve. You figure out ways to be more efficient, to innovate, to market yourself.”

Joyce Lovelace is contributing editor for American Craft.