Pottery is our oldest handicraft. In prehistoric times, most likely water was carried in woven baskets lined with river clay. After the water was poured out of the container the layer of clay dried. The loss of moisture caused the shape to shrink and separate from the sides of the basket. When the clay, now shaped like a pot, was removed, and dried in the sun on hot sand, it retained the basket pattern. Early men and women then discovered that they could harden the molded pottery in hot ashes and make sturdy containers to transport and store food. From these would have been extended the pots formed by hand and decorated with crude tools.
From a very early date in history, some say at least 400 B. C., earthenware pottery was produced on a mass scale by a potter’s wheel in many parts of the world.
THE EGYPTIANS :
The Egyptians made kilns to place their clay pots in for firing. The kiln was lined with a kind of insulation brick that was made from a mixture of straw and clay which had been dried in the sun. Later, the ancient Egyptians used a finer clay with a high quartz content for their delicate pottery. They rubbed the pieces with a smooth stone to give the a dull sheen or coated them with a fine layer of another color of clay.
Further experimentation lead the Egyptians to coat their clay objects with a bluish-green substance to make them non-porous. This was a glaze composed of quartz, soda, and a mineral containing copper which when fired covered the clay bowls and vases with a glass-like surface.
ANCIENT GREEK :
Ancient greek vases are highly valued for form and decoration. The graceful lines an perfect balance speak to our desire for beauty. The pottery was decorated with pictures of the daily lives of the people and stories of their gods, goddesses and heroes. On the red figure vases the background was painted black and the figures were left the natural red color of the clay. The color was reversed on the black-figured vases.
Medieval period :
In Medieval times sand was mixed with clay to make cooking pots strong enough to be placed over an open fire. Today, for the same reason, casseroles used for baking are made from clay mixed with grog which is a ground-up fired pottery. The openness of grog clay allows water to evaporate more evenly as it dries and prevents cracking and warping during the firing. Grog clay eases the problem of heat expansion which can cause large thick pieces of pottery or sculpture to blow up in the kiln.
German potters :
Around the middle of the thirteenth century German Potters started to produce stoneware. This pottery was made form finer clays and fired at a higher temperature than earthenware. Stoneware was tan or gray in color, strong and naturally non-porous.
Light, transparent porcelain was first produced in China. Porcelain was made from a very plastic and pure clay called kaolin mixed with felspar. The colorful decoration of the porcelain was accomplished by firing each color individually after it was applied. These delicate china dishes and figurines were in demand all over Europe. In their efforts to unravel the secret of the composition of the Chinese porcelain, European and other Asian potters developed many variations in their glazing techniques.
Rakuware is another type of pottery of special interest. The crackled glaze of raku originated in Japan where tea bowls were modeled by hand from a very coarse clay (Hanson, 1970).Late in the sixteenth century, a trade route through Manila, brought pottery from China to Acapulco to Vera Cruz, Mexico to Europe.
Every village of almost every state of India has a potter (Khumbar or Kumhar) who ‘wheels’ out an amazing variety of household utensils and other objects of utility. They sit outside their huts, spinning their wheels, creating bowls, mugs, plates, urns, for storing and carrying water, flowerpots, foot-scrubbers, small pots and a myriad other articles required by an Indian household. With the spread of urbanization, the potter settlements have now mushroomed on the outskirts of big cities and towns.
Pottery Across the States:
Moving straight onto Kashmir , one can find earthenware of ordinary clay, but with a glaze-like surface, which has gained popularity. Kangra in himachal Pradesh is rich in its clayware.Pottery products made in Kangra is as similar to other clay crafts made by other Potters in India. The only difference is style and the personal touch of the craftsmen. The products are marketed in Kangra, Palampur, Dharamsala, and Meleodganj.
Delhi is famous for its characteristic ‘Blue’ pottery. It has a very old tradition, which is very distinctive. This particular art form has been named as blue pottery because the eye-catching Persian blue dye is used to color the clay. Blue pottery is glazed and high-fired which makes it tougher than most of the others.Delhi pottery Known as the “lyric of handicrafts”, pottery has always supplied writers and poets with the metaphors they have needed.It was probably the Pathan potters from Afghanistan who introduced the glazing techniques to the Mughal court in India.Today, Khurja, an old town about 80 kilometers from Delhi, is full of Muslim potters, engaged in this ancient craft. They use inky blue color known as Jaipur blue as background for floral designs. They also make tiles and do pottery cutwork.
WEST BENGAL :
Mansa pottery of west bengal represents the snake goddess and is a quaint, double curved pot with a face painted on it. Similarly, the Dakshinirai pots, found in the Sunderbans area, are round pots with an edging running along the mouth signifying a crown and worshipped as the god who protects people against tigers. Such articles are of interest to the tourist and though not readily available outside Bengal, one finds stray pieces at the emporia in the major cities of India.
UTTAR PRADESH :
Uttar Pradesh produces some of the finest and most decorative Chunar, symbolized by its fine black clay pottery. This is inlaid with silver paint in intricate designs. The art perfected in Nizamabad, is highly glossy and has luster. Luster is derived from a powder called kabiz made from the mud of rice fields. Its formula is a closely guarded secret.
Khurja , in Uttar Pradesh, a three hours drive from Delhi, is also well known for its cheap but tough tableware. A specialty of Khurja is a type of pitcher like a pilgrim’s bottle. Meerut, Hapur, Chinhat and Mansalia are important centers of this state where ordinary domestic articles and glazed items, mostly tableware are made. Produced on a mass scale, fired at high temperatures, these pottery items retain their mud colour and are in popular demand.
Rajasthan pottery has certain distinct characteristics. The mouths of water pots are small, probably to prevent spilling when water is being carried, a natural precaution in a place where water is so precious. Alwar is noted for its paper-thin pottery, known as kagzi (paper) pottery. Molela in Rajasthan is a village, which specializes in producing reliefs of gods and goddesses, mainly Ganesh, the elephant god. These reliefs are painted in vibrant reds, yellows and pinks and the figure is fired.
Jaipur Pottery , made out of Egyptian paste, is thrown on the wheel and fired in wood-kilns, usually at very low temperatures. This naturally makes it fragile though few can resist the charm of the delicate white and blue floral motif, which is painted onto the body after firing. The range of items is primarily decorative such as ashtrays, vases, coasters, small bowls and boxes for trinkets. In the Pokhran pottery, pieces in different shapes are made for varied uses. The important thing here is that the shape is dictated by the function. The best known is the water bottle used during long journeys.
In Gujarat , a mixture of white and black clay is used in pottery making. After they are sun-dried, the clay articles are painted. Only earth pigments, ground and mixed with water are used. The object is first coated with a uniform base color and the patterns are then painted in various colors. A vast repertoire of motifs is spontaneously rendered by craftswomen. Designs are made of dots, zigzag stripes and diagonals. Floral and animal patterns are only occasionally used. Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat are noted for their beautiful earthenware.Goa’s earthenware has a charm of its own. A wide range of figures and panels, apart from attractive water and flowerpots, are made.
THE SOUTHERN POTTERY :
The south has several centers of noted glazed pottery. Vellore has black and red wares. Usilampatti in Madurai district has black pottery.Karigari pottery in South Arcot . of Tamil Nadu is most famous. Intricate items are made in parts and then joined. Highly artistic shapes are skillfully created. The chillum (clay pipe) is made into a noteworthy item both through its elegant shape and deep blue or green glaze. Khanapur in Belgaum district of Karnataka is known for its large sized containers and jars for storage and preservation.
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Categories: Culture and History
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