The Kulhar Project
noun, singular: kul-har
A kulhar or kulhad, sometimes called a shikora, is a traditional handle-less terracotta cup from North India and Pakistan that is typically unpainted and unglazed, and meant to be disposable. The question around the sustainability of the takeout cup has led to unprecedented creative explorations on materials, functionality as well as distribution of the cup. How does material affects flavour? What is true sustainability? How could community distribution work? Are all questions still under close scrutiny.
As we move from the throwaway to the reusable, we also encounter issues with a secondary level of consumerism - reusable cups that are again thrown away after a several months. Research into plastics and their effects on the environment call into question their effectiveness as an answer to take-away cups.
Taking its inspiration from the traditional Indian kulhar – our Art + Industry project for 2021 was centred around the production of clay cups. Taking a look back towards our ancestors and their use of clay to create any manner of cup - any size, shape, glaze - The Kulhar Project attempts to draw together the coffee loving community through the production of cups.
We debuted the creative, interactive installation at London Coffee Festival in September 2021, and followed on to tour coffee festivals around the UK; inviting participants to get involved and explore the boundary between sustainability and creativity.
Visitors to our stand had the opportunity to create their own clay cup through the guided, tactile and sensory experience that is ceramics throwing, with the results being exhibited both physically at the festival and via digital platforms. The process of creating a usable, reusable or perhaps unusable (depending on your skill!) cup is intended to draw on several key thoughts pertinent to a sustainable coffee consumer industry.
Collaborating with us on the project was CUP ceramics, an open access ceramics studio based in Herefordshire, providing space and facilities for communities to develop practical skills and gain therapeutic benefits through creating ceramics.