Every craft depicts its unique story. This makes it even more fascinating to discern the amazing facts pertaining to its development. In this discussion, we would attempt to unravel the impressive narrative about blue pottery. All of us have encountered, used, or discussed about pottery at one time or the other in our day to day conversations. However, what may be unknown to a lot of us is the existence of an exquisite craft associated with pottery i.e. blue pottery existing in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
“The feelings of an artist magnify the beauty of each art piece“
Table of Contents
ANTIQUE BLUE POTTERY: HISTORICAL ROOTS
Blue Pottery actually commenced in the Central Asian region in the 14th Century. Basically, the craft was the result of the amalgamation of the craft from Mongolia and the Chinese glazing process with the Persian art forms. The advent of Turkish rule in India in the 14th century led to the arrival of this craft on the Indian soil.
Initially, this art was found in the mosques, tombs, temples and palaces Central Asian areas. Mughals propagated this technique within their ruling areas and thereby ensured its further development.
This Technique flourished in the 19th Century at Jaipur under the reign of Sawai Ram Singh II. The artisans from his court were sent to Delhi to acquire the much required expertise in the art of blue pottery. The beautiful impressions of this technique can be found till date at the significant buildings of Rajasthan. For instance, the fountains at the Rambagh Palace are decorated with the blue tiles.
The Pink City of India– Jaipur witnessed the emergence of the unique art of Blue Pottery in the 17th Century. The town with which blue pottery is more closely associated is Sanganer. It is situated at 16 km south of the city of Jaipur. This art has derived its name from the blue dye which is utilized in colouring the pottery.
METHOD OF CREATION: BLUE AND WHITE POTTERY
The major raw materials used in the preparation of dough are- quartz powder, fuller’s earth, borax, gum and water. Soda bicarbonate is also used by some craftsmen. The process of dough preparation is completed in around 4 days.
The next step in this process involves pressing the dough into the mould after filling burnt wood inside it. This step is quite significant in defining the desired shape of the final product.
The dough has to undergo hard pressing on the potter’s wheel in order to prepare the products of large sizes as it lacks the required flexibility.
Then, the dry pottery products are painted manually by the artisans with oxide colours. The designs used on the surface of blue pottery correspond to the art forms found within Persian art.
After Painting, the finished products undergo the process of glazing. The contents glazing mixture include powdered glass, borax, zinc oxide, potassium nitrate, and boric acid.
Finally, the pottery has to be dried under the sun and is fired vigorously at a higher temperature (800- 1000 Degree Celsius) for about 5 to 6 hours. The process of firing is undertaken in a closed clay and charcoal ignited furnace. It is then left to cool off for 72 hours and is transformed into majestic and incredible art pieces.
While purchasing these products, we rarely appreciate the rigorous efforts of those artisans who work day and night to beautify our spaces and rejuvenate our senses. Do we???
CONTEMPORARY PRODUCTS AND DESIGNS: BLUE ELEPHANT POTTERY
The products developed using this creative art have found their way to our living rooms due to their commendable association with modernity and traditions. Let’s have a brief glimpse of few of those products!!!
Blue Pottery can be easily spotted on products like ashtrays, vases, coasters, small bowls and trinkets, tea sets, glasses, jars, mugs, lampstands, earrings, knobs, flower vases, frames and soap dishes. The historical records also suggest that blue pottery was originally found on urns, jars and pots in the medieval times.
The most defining feature underlying this technique is the absence of clay during the making of the products. The colours which are majorly used in blue pottery are oxide and Ferro colours.
Moreover, the final products resulting from this technique are quite delicate in nature and are more likely to break up easily.
The majority of the products manufactured using this technique are embellished with the natural elements – birds, animals and flowers. The pottery is also adorned with the designs depicting deities including Goddess Durga and Lord Ganesha.
The sheer view of these thoughtful embellishments not only deserves our applause. At the same time, it also instils within us immense amount of respect towards the adorable ways in which these craftsmen imprint their emotions within these designs.
The intricate product designs on the surface of these products remind me of a famous quote by Edgar Degas- “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” Therefore, the beauty of this craft lies in the distinctive reflections of the various emotions that lie within each product design. Is it not a better way to think??? Let’s give it a try!!
RESURGENCE OF THE CRAFT
This art was revived with the sincere efforts of the famous muralist- Mr. Kripal Singh Shekhawat. He constantly worked towards the revival of this craft. He also trained the students at Sawai Ram Singh Shilp Kala Mandir at Jaipur in Blue Pottery and traditional Indian painting. His sincere efforts in this field of art and craft were honored by awarding him the Padma Shri in 1974. This art was also patronised by a lot of eminent personalities including Rajmata Gayatri Devi and Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay. Later, he was also recognized with the prestigious title of ‘Shilpa Guru’ awarded by the Government of India in 2002. He also founded the ‘Kripal Kumbh‘ in 1960‘s in order to sustain this art form in its most genuine form.
However, the remarkable contribution of Ms. Leela Bordia in restoring the dignity of this craft is also worth appreciating. She has been credited with infusing a tinge of new life to the diminishing tradition of blue pottery at Jaipur. She devised a lot of innovative ways for an effective promotion and marketing of these products. She guided the artisans to incorporate beautiful elements in the motifs onto the pottery items so as to enhance the appeal of these items in the contemporary market. She also founded Neerja International Inc in Jaipur in 1978 for providing efficient guidelines on designing the motifs as well.
CAUSE OF CONCERN
Despite the efforts of these esteemed personalities, there is a journey which still needs to be undertaken to ensure the further development of this craft and ensure the prosperity of the artisans involved in its creation. Some of the challenges that hinder the growth of this craft in the contemporary market include the increased costs of raw materials, labour, and taxes.