The art of Indian Pottery and its legacy

Pottery classes are a fun stress reliving art class and for those invested, it can be quite rewarding. There are varied kinds of pottery worldwide, but the Indian pottery culture has a rich history and innumerable traditions like no other. From West Bengal’s Terracotta pottery to Gujarat’s Khavda pottery, the variety in materials and techniques in Indian pottery is astounding. The next time you are thinking about learning pottery goes for an Indian style or when visiting India buy from local artisans and support them.

A little about the history and the artists

Indian pottery has its roots in the Indus valley civilization where pots, containers and other decorative items were made in large numbers with beautiful motifs. Over time the ‘kumhar’ community became the experts in this craft and ensured its sustenance over generations. The local artisans’ contribution to this craft’s legacy and development by bringing in new styles from time to time is immense. 

Some famous pottery styles

  • Birdiware of Karnataka-

The base material used for Birdiware is an alloy of zinc, copper, earth, and non-ferrous metals and it is adorned with pure silver designs of geometrical shapes, flowers and human figures. The items are then dipped into a unique concoction prepared using soil from the Bidar fort, Karnataka, which oxidizes the alloy into a lustrous black shade. The striking bichromecolour scheme of silver and black makes this style stand out. There is also a huge demand for Birdiware items in the US, Gulf and Europe.

  • Clay pottery of Ezhumangad, Kerala-

The ‘Kumbharan’ community in Ezhumangad has been practicing simple clay pottery and making a living for years. They get the clay from the banks of the Nilariver and mainly work on kitchenware items and make decorative items in the traditional kilns and electrical wheels. Locals say the food cooked in these pots have a distinct taste that other utensils cannot provide.

  •  Terracotta of West Bengal-

Terracotta figurines with an orangish-red hue can be found in the homes of most Indians. The Kumbhakars of West Bengal make everything from pots, toys, sculptures to temple panels. The popular terracotta item sculptures have intricate designs that require expert craftmanship and the two or more types of clays are blended to make the suitable material.

  • Black clay pottery of Uttar Pradesh-

This style is similar to Birdiware but the process of making it is different. Fine-textured local clay from ponds is used to make utensils, religious figurines and decorative item. The designs are etched into the items by a twig and then they are smoke fired in a kiln and finished off with a polish. This style is also said to have an export demand like Birdiware because of its alluring look.

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