Flora Indica Clay Cups

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Flora Indica Clay Cups is a pottery created for the projekt Streetkitchen_Kolkata in 2013. It was produced in collaboration with a local clay cup maker in Kolkata as a counterpart to the exclusive danish dinnerware Flora Danica by Royal Copenhagen. Seeds from native indian plants were used for making a seedstamp on ordinary clay cups in order to make it possible for a future random garden to grow in the city on locations where chai customers throw their used Flora Indica Clay Cup.

During the period of British India, there were two different worlds in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Being colonial headquarter, the city operated under different rules and therefore spaces of the city were used differently, whilst trying to maximize control and minimize conflict between opposing worlds. Today opposite and conflicting worlds share the same space, but they still use it differently. Before the colonization tea was a privilege only for wealthy people, since it was an expensive, imported product from China. During colonial time The Indian Tea was discovered and became the major export product for East India Company. At the same time Indian chai became a common drink for every Indian.

Chai ritual
The cups are made of clay, excavated from the buttom of the river, The clay are turned into cups and tried in the sun. For generations Chai wallahs has sold their chai in the little clay cups, which are thrown to the ground as soon as the chai has been drunken. This action testify the presence of Indias many hands for production, but at the same time it shows the traditional class distinction, where people from the low casts earlier on were not allowed to come into contact with people from a higher cast. Today all indians participate in this ritual many times every day

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Diagram of cycle from clay to clay + a plant.

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Clay from the river.

Workshop of the clay cup maker.

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Light burning of clay cups before the ”Seed stamp” is added.

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Experiments with making the ”Seed stamp”.

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William Roxburgh was superintendent at The Botanical Garden in Calcutta in the period 1789-1813. Under Roxburgh the Botanical Garden developed as a centre for knowledge. Plant collectors throughout India would send their discoveries to Calcutta for identification, and visitors could be instructed in the latest systems of taxonomy. When going back to Europe, Roxburgh left a set of lifesized handpainted original drawings with botanical dissections of 2.542 plants, wherein almost all of the indian species he described in the book ”Flora Indica”, is to be found among these drawings.

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Icon from ”Flora Indica”.

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Photographing Roxburgh Icons at Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden in Kolkata.

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Flora Indica Clay Cup on an icon from Roxburgh’s encyclopaedia “Flora Indica”.


The random garden will consist of Curcurbita Pepo (Pumpkin) and Foeniculum Vulgare (Fennel) from Roxburgh’s Icons, the “Flora Indica”. Coriandrum Sativum was photographed at New Market in Kolkata, since Coriander was not a native plant to India at Roxburgh’s time.

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Drinking chai from a Flora Indica Clay Cup at the Streetkitchen_Kolkata event on the street.

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Used Flora Indica Clay Cups 0 = Potential garden.

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Poster showing the chai cup ritual and the possibility of growing plants, due to the design of the Flora Indica Clay Cup.

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Clay objects back in the river.