The Art of Blue Pottery

The Art of Blue Pottery

Blue Pottery is widely recognized as a traditional craft of Jaipur of Central Asian origin. The name 'blue pottery' comes from the eye-catching cobalt blue dye used to color the pottery. It is one of many Eurasian types of blue and white pottery, and related in the shapes and decoration to Islamic pottery and, more distantly, Chinese pottery. The Persian Art of blue pottery came to Jaipur from Persia and Afghanistan via Mughal Courts.

 The art of pottery is one of the oldest skills known to the Indians. The advent of the potter's wheel gave man the opportunity to make beautifully shaped pots for his personal use. Over time, this craft evolved into various specialized categories like simple clay pottery, glazed pottery, terracotta pottery, blue pottery, paper‐thin pottery, etc., which are being practiced in various parts of India today.

This art, introduced by the Muslims in India, underwent transitional changes. While it declined during the conservative Mughal king Aurangzeb’s time, it later flourished in Jaipur during Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh’s time (1835‐1880). He sent the local artists to Delhi to be trained by the famous potter Bhola. The descendants of the very first potters still practice the craft. Sawai Ram Singh set up a school of art and encouraged artists and craftsmen from all over the country to come and settle in Jaipur and practice the craft. This ancient craft is one of the oldest in Rajasthan. Today, many schools of pottery are scattered in different parts of the state. The blue pottery of Jaipur is the most exquisite and best known all over the world.

 Some of this pottery is semi-transparent and mostly decorated with bird and other animal motifs. Being fired at a very low temperature makes them fragile. Jaipur blue pottery, made out of a similar frit material to faience, is glazed and low-fired. No clay is used: the 'dough' for the pottery is prepared by mixing quartz stone powder, powdered glass, Multani Mitti (Fuller's Earth), borax, gum and water.

 According to the craftsmen, blue pottery is being practiced by 25‐30 units in and around Jaipur. Ten to eleven units are from the village Kot Jebar1 and the rest of them are from the main city of Jaipur. Formerly there were more producers but since it is a time‐consuming and tedious craft, the producers have shifted to other means of livelihood. The craft is mainly practiced by the Khaarwaal, Kumbhars, Bahairva and Nat castes. Among these, the Khaarwal and Khumbars are the prime producers of blue pottery. 

The color palette is restricted to blue derived from the cobalt oxide, green from the copper oxide and white, though other non-conventional colors, such as yellow and brown are sometimes included. The products made include plates, flower vases, soap dishes, surahis (small pitcher), trays, coasters, fruit bowls, door knobs, and glazed tiles with hand painted floral designs. The craft is found mainly in Jaipur, but also in Sanganer, Mahalan, and Neota. Today, blue pottery is an industry that provides livelihood to many people in Jaipur. The traditional designs have been adopted, and now, apart from the usual urns, jars, pots and vases, you can find tea sets, cups and saucers, plates and glasses, jugs, ashtrays and napkin rings.

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