Craft Diary 001: Blue Pottery

If you have been to the state of Rajasthan in India, you will not be surprised when someone says that it is one of the richest states in the country as far as the field of arts and crafts is concerned. The people of Rajasthan have sharpened their creative senses, artistic skills and created the most opulent and richest of treasures in the region with crafts made of stone, clay, leather, wood, ivory, lac, glass, brass, silver, gold and textiles available everywhere you look.


Our eyes have surely caught the brightness & beauty of Blue Pottery, a craft with a Turko-Persian origin, and one of the most loved crafts found in the capital city of Jaipur. As we get ready to host our very first Hand Painted Ceramic Workshop, inspired by Blue Pottery, we wanted to share a little bit more about Blue Pottery with patrons of this craft.


Join the workshop if you would like to learn unique Blue Pottery patterns & designs that you can paint on your own ceramics or other art pieces. REGISTER HERE!

The History


Blue Pottery took an interesting route in finding its home in Jaipur. Founded in 1727 by Sawai Jai Singh I, the historic city of Jaipur was well established as a thriving art centre. Ram Singh II attended a kite flying session and watched two brothers from Achnera bring down the royal kites of his kite masters. Intrigued, he found the secret; they were potters by profession and had coated their strings with the same blue-green glass that they used for their pots. Sawai Ram Singh II was impressed so he invited the brothers to stay in Jaipur and teach this unique form of glazed pottery at his new art school.


The traditional patterns and motifs in blue pottery are of Persian origins. The craftspeople of India have also developed their own contemporary patterns including floral, geometric designs, animals, birds as well as many deities like Goddess ‘Durga’ and Lord ‘Ganesh’.


The Process


The making of blue pottery involves various steps and it’s a long & slow process.

The dough is prepared with raw materials like quartz powder (locally available in Jaipur), cullet (the small chunks of glass that are washed and ground together to make glass powder), saji, katira gond (gum), and multani mitti (Fuller’s Earth). The dough is made into molds which are of desired shapes and sizes, and left to dry.


A good amount of dough is flattened to a round roti (pancake) like a shape of approximately 1cm thickness with a flattening tool. The flattened dough is placed on the mold and tucked in nicely to get the shape. The mold with the dough in it is then filled with burnt wood dust and pressed gently so that dough takes the exact shape of the mold.


Once the product dries the burnt wood dust is removed. It is then rubbed with the sandpaper to remove grains and to make the surface of the product even. The finished product now has to be painted before which it undergoes another smoothening process.

After the second round of smoothening the products are dipped in a mixture of quartz powder, powdered glass, Maida (edible flour) and water. It is evenly coated and kept for drying. Once the product is dried it is rubbed with sandpaper evenly and made ready for painting.


After the smoothening process, all products are painted by hand. First, the outlines are drawn with the fine brush or custom-made artist brush. If the product is circular shape then the outline is easy to give, the product is just placed on the potter's wheel and by touching the tip of the brush to the product a neat line could be drawn. After the outlines, colors are filled in the spaces and designs completed.


The colors that are used are oxides and Ferro metal. The oxides will be available in the market. It is mixed with edible gum, which acts as a binding agent.


A special glaze is prepared using different raw materials like powdered glass, borax, zinc oxide, potassium nitrate, and boric acid. These raw materials are heated at a high temperature; the melting point is reduced by borax. The products are dipped in glaze and left for drying. Once it is dried it's ready to get in the furnace.


The products are properly stacked inside the kiln so that they don't touch each other. The firing takes place for 4-5 hours and the firing has to be controlled to be gradual because changes in temperature might cause cracks in products. The kiln is left for cooling for 2-3 days and then products are taken out. The products are separated from the cracked ones, the final ones are cleaned and packed for the market.

Just researching for this piece and reading about the old craft of Blue Pottery, our respect for the artisans grew double. We hope in your next visit to Jaipur, you will get a chance to see this amazing craft in person and find a way to support the local craftspeople.

If you are heading to Rajasthan, here are the reputed centers you can check out:

  1. Kripal Kumbh (Led by the family of late Kripal Singh Shekhawat, 1960’s internationally renowned artist. Kripal Singhji was conferred the “Padma Shri” in 1974 and was also honoured with the title “Shilp Guru” by the Government of India in 2002

  2. Neerja International (Launched in 1978, and led by Ms. Leela Bordia. She has created 300 Blue Pottery Products and 1000 unique designs of her own vision and imagination)

  3. RN Blue Pottery (provides livelihood opportunities to 250 male and female rural artisans who produce these works of art in their own homes)

  4. Jaipur Blue Pottery Art Centre (8th generation blue pottery manufacturers with over 350 decorative and utility products and nearly 1150 original designs)

  5. Doraya Family Jaipur Pottery (supported by Sakshi International since 2015)



And while we have you, if you would like to support Vimal and his artisan collective from the Kot-Jewar Blue Pottery cluster, please check out this Donation Link.


References & image credits:

D’Source India

Gaatha

Rangeelo Jaipur

Ceramics Art Network

India Craft Project

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