Clay or earthen pots have been used to keep water cool since time immemorial. When the pot can keep water cool, surely it can do the same for other things? This thought struck M Sivasamy, a potter from Karumathampatti in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, one day.
Tamil Nadu potter M Sivasamy has built a portable and eco-friendly refrigerator using clay, which can keep vegetables, milk, curd, etc. fresh for up to four days, without using electricity.
Having built clay items all his life, the 70-year-old decided to use his knowledge and expertise to build a device that would help people live sustainably as well.
In 2020, he built an eco-friendly refrigerator from clay that could keep vegetables fresh for up to four days without the use of electricity, he says.
He used a big cylindrical clay pot and added two features to it — a tap in the front and an outlet at the back to pour water inside. A smaller pot sits neatly inside the bigger one, on top of which goes the lid, where you can place your vegetables.
You pour water, almost 15 litres, into the big pot and as it remains cool, it keeps your vegetables and fruits cool as well. If stored properly, they remain fresh for up to four days. You can also use it to store curd, milk, and eggs.says Sivasamy.
There are two variants of this refrigerator — one is 1.5 feet in length while the other is 2 feet. They cost Rs 1,700 and Rs 1,800 respectively, and he says he has sold more than 100 fridges so far.
Helping people live sustainably
Hailing from a family of potters, Sivasamy has a plethora of products made of clay. His house doubles as a shop and godown, where he sells more than 150 types of earthen products. The shop is called Thiruneelakandar Stores and has been running for the past 50 years.
“Earlier, during my father’s time, we used only to make lamps and pots. But we have had to expand as per people’s needs, ” says Sivasamy.
Explaining the process of making the fridge, he says he gets clay from three places, which he has to mix to the right consistency. After that, he makes each piece of the fridge, which is then dried in the shade. It takes him one month to make ten refrigerators, he says.
Another reason why Sivasamy built this fridge was due to the fact that he had none in his house as a child. “We’d have fresh food from the farms and that was also a secret to our health. With this fridge, at least some people might reduce their electricity consumption. And since you can’t keep vegetables for more than four days, they’ll be fresh till you use them.He says
Sivasamy also makes and sells clay kadais, pans, tumblers, bottles, jugs, and cooking pots, among other products.
Meanwhile, Sivasamy notes that even doctors are his customers, and says demand has picked up in the past four years.
“As our health has started deteriorating, more people are moving towards old habits now. We have been following a simple life since our birth and are healthy. I am happy that people are learning about the benefits of clay pots and cooking in them. To help people live sustainably, I have built this fridge,” he adds.
However, he notes, due to a shortage of potters, he is unable to make more fridges and other products.
“I used to have four people helping me, but now only two of them continue, and even they are old. No youngster comes into this field nowadays. They think that those who do pottery are dirty, as our hands get dirty. That’s why we have to limit our production,” he laments
“But if I would be rigid and say that I will only make pots and lamps, the loss is mine. By adapting to the customer’s needs, and making creations that would benefit them, I am also winning. By playing a small part in someone’s health, and helping the environment, I feel content,” he says.