Blue Pottery is one of the traditional arts, which are still in demand, after centuries of its origin.
The art of blue Pottery is well known for its classical blue painting on white base. It's striking blue colour, and glazed finish attracts everyone and is soothing for sight. But what makes it stand out from other Pottery is its semi transparent look.
If you have visited shrines, tombs, and old mosques in Multan and other cities of Punjab and Sindh, you must have seen mihrabs and shrines decorated solely with blue pottery tiles.
Usually, in rural areas of Punjab, blue pottery utensils are used for serving food.
But nowadays, blue Pottery is mostly used for decorative purposes. Beautiful blue pottery planters and lamps use for households as well as commercial places. Vases, tea sets, and other decorative items are the centre of attraction for tourists and visitors, and they take it back as a keepsake and souvenir.
Making of Blue Pottery
The uniqueness of Blue Pottery is not just in its design, but also in its making. It is entirely handmade and hand-painted by expert craftsmen.
Blue Pottery not made with simple clay; instead, a variety of ingredients is a mix to give the perfect glaze and smoothness to the utensils.
Materials used in the Pottery
Blue Pottery in Pakistan made by adding different materials in Multani clay. Here is the list of all the ingredients used in the making of this semi transparent Pottery.
Quartz stone powder
Special powdered gum
Some potters also use Borax and soda bicarbonate to make the base for blue Pottery.
Making of Blue Pottery is a long and challenging process. It took days to create a single piece of Pottery. Expert craftsmen carry out the process, and it made without using any machines.
Here is the step-by-step process of making traditional blue Pottery.
First, all the ingredients are powdered and mixed well. This mixture then left overnight, or for 7 to 8 hours, before kneading.
The next day, this mixture kneaded into a sticky dough, and then again went for 3 to 4 days.
Once the dough is ready, it is rolled and flattened on the base stone into a round flat 'chapatti'. The flat chapatti is approximately 4 to 5 mm thick.
This chapatti is then carefully placed in the moulds. Special moulds, made out of plaster of Paris, are used to shape the base of blue Pottery, as the dough is sticky and lacks plasticity like other dough.
The mould is then filled with burnt wooden ashes and pressed until it takes the exact shape of the mould.
The extended edges of the dough, are then removed with the help of a sharp object or knife.
The next step is to remove the shaped dough from the mould.
It is then placed upside down, along with wood ashes, and left for 1 to 2 days for drying.
Once the Pottery is dried, the ashes removed with the help of a small broom called 'koochi'.
Make product even more smooth, some water sprinkled on it, and then the excess dough is removed with a sharp, strong knife.
It is again left for a day to get dried up completely.
Once dried, the product is sanded and rubbed with sandpaper to remove all unevenness.
The craftsman then coats the product with dough and water mixture to fill in all pores.
Once the product is dried, it again rubbed with sandpaper.
The same step repeated for at least one more time.
After sanding the last coat on the product, the craftsman dipped it in a white mixture. This mixture made by mixing quartz powder, powdered glass, and flour in water.
The product again left for drying.
Once completely dried, the product is sanded one more time before painting.
Now you smooth white Pottery is prepared for painting.
Painting on Blue Pottery
Multani blue Pottery is delicately hand-painted by expert craftsmen. But sometimes, the pottery wheel is also used to draw even lines and spirals on the product.
The artists paint different patterns with dyes, obtained from cobalt and zinc oxide, on the specially prepared white poetry. Most of the poetry designs are complicated and need careful handling of dyes to get the perfect results.
The painted pieces speak volume about the skill and talent of the artists.
Colours of Blue Pottery
Blue pigments are the core of Blue Pottery. This pigment specifically obtained for blue Pottery from cobalt oxides. This dye has its significant shade of blue, which is both vibrant and cool. The coolness of this blue pigment also reflects the calm climate of Multan.
Apart from blue pigments, many artists use green pigment as well. This is again a specific pigment for blue Pottery obtained from zinc oxide. This natural pigment is bluish-green and is distinctive from other shades of green.
Green pigments usually used with blue dyes, but some artists opt for only green oxides for their Pottery. Bluish-green colour gives a trendier look to the Pottery, in contrast to the traditional vibrant blue dye.
Brown is another popular colour used in blue Pottery. You can find the combination of blue and brown, even in the blue pottery tiles used in the earlier centuries.
Now many artists have started using yellow colour in painting their Pottery. They want to give their designs a more colourful and stylish look.
Painting and Designs
The design and pattern of Pottery hold significant importance. It reflects the historical influence and cultural diversity of the art and the artist.
Multani blue Pottery painted in different patterns and designs. The major influence on Multani pottery is from Persian and Mongolian era. You can find floral patterns, petals, leaves, and stems in blue Pottery, that used by kashigars of that period.
Multani blue pottery tiles and mihrabs that used in the old shrines and historical architecture of Multan, usually have floral motifs or geometrical patterns.
Geometrical patterns that used in that era are still an inspiration for architectural and Islamic art students, and they get amazed by the harmony of their designs. The well balanced geometrical patterns that look simple but are technical leaves the viewers awestruck.
Curves and spirals are significant elements of blue Pottery. Some artists beautifully combine the curves and circles to create intrinsic mandala art on flat pottery pieces. They look mesmerizing and beautiful. Many artists use a combination of yellow and green colour along with blue pigments to give prominence to different elements of the mandala on Pottery.
Popular Multani Blue Pottery Designs
Full bhrai, antique, bamboo, and Neem Patti are some of the favourite designs of Multani Blue Pottery. Almost all blue Pottery based on these designs and patterns.
Most of the artists paint the Pottery on pre-designed patterns, but some innovative and skilled artists create freehand abstract patterns. They usually follow the theme, like leaves and stems, or flowers, and create their designs. This makes their pottery pieces unique and distinctive.
Other Designs and Patterns
The followers of different religions also paint their god and goddess on white vessels and pots with blue or green pigments. We also find gods and goddess paintings on ancient Pottery.
Some innovative artists have also painted birds and animals on their pottery products. These are usually used as symbols, like peace and strength, depending on which bird or animal painted. Some artists also paint their religious sacred birds and animals on Pottery. Though it's an innovative trend, yet it does not gain significant popularity in Multan.
Multani people are fonder of traditional and classic art. Blue Pottery is not just an art for the craftsmen of this region. It is sacred for them and linked with their historical and cultural roots.
Glazing Blue Pottery
The process of making blue Pottery does not end with painting. After painting the product, the next step is glazing. The painted product is first allowed to dry and then dipped in a specific glaze, which prepared with these ingredients.
First of all, 21kg of powdered glass, 17kg of Borax, 7kg of boric acid, 1 kg of Zinc oxide, and 2 kg of Potassium nitrate is mixed and melted on heat.
The melted mixture is then cooled down.
As the mixture cools down, it turns into lumps.
These lumps are then grounded again.
The glaze powders are then mixed with flour, slurry, and water to prepare the final glaze.
Once the glaze is ready, painted Pottery is dipped in it.
The Pottery must be dipped well so that the product gets even coat of glaze.
The glazed product is then allowed to dry in the sunlight.
Finalizing the Blue Pottery
After the glaze is dried, blue Pottery kept in a closed kiln for firing.
The most important step in firing is loading the kiln. All the glazed products loaded in the kiln on top of each other. A special sheet, called 'patiya' or 'nali', is used to separate one product from the other. If by chance, products will get in contact with each other, their design and colour will be ruined from that spot.
After careful stacking of Pottery, the kiln is tightly closed for days. The Pottery is heated in the kiln for 4 to 5 hours, at approx—800 to 850 degree Celsius. After firing, the Pottery is left in the kiln for 2 to 3 days. This allows the Pottery to slowly cool down, as Pottery can get cracked with a drastic change in temperature.
Finally, the Pottery is removed from the kiln. The craftsmen then sort the products, and any defected and cracked product is removed instantly.
This is how blue Pottery is prepared. It is then packed and delivered to the display centres and outlets.
The process of making blue Pottery is time-consuming and tedious, but the end product is worth the effort. Its uniqueness, its beauty, and its glaze give inner satisfaction to the craftsman.
Evolving Trends in Blue Pottery
There are three key aspects of blue Pottery that is its white base, its oxide dyes, and its semitransparent glaze. If any of these aspects are compromised, it will ruin the Pottery.
Multani clay is the traditional Pottery used for blue Pottery. But now different kinds of Pottery is also used in blue Pottery.
With the decreasing water level in Punjab, it was getting difficult for craftsmen to get ample Multani clay from rivers. So they started making Pottery with white clay, also known as Chinese clay or ceramic.
Though nothing can beat the traditional clay base, ceramic and porcelain also make a great base for blue Pottery.
Ceramic is a white clay obtained from mountains. It is found in stones form and is needed to be grounded. Special machines are used to grind these hard rocks of clay, and it took many hours to grind them completely.
In Pakistan, white clay can found at Mansehra, Tharparkar, Gujrat, and Peshawar.
Ceramic Vs Traditional Blue Pottery
The process of making Pottery differs for white and traditional Multani clay.
Ceramic has better plasticity as compared to Multani clay mixture. This makes ceramic or white clay pottery easier to handle and mould.
The white colour of ceramic is also different from that of river clay mixture, but it has its distinctive features.
Also, white clay pots and vessels cannot use for cooling water, which is the significant benefit of Multani clay pottery.
Pricing of Blue Pottery
The prices of blue Pottery differ according to their material, design, pigments, and glaze. Local markets usually sell semi-glazed and not so smooth and finished Pottery at reasonable rates. They are affordable and reachable for common men.
High end, semi transparent glazed Pottery is usually quite expensive. They are made with fine quality materials and went through various steps of finishing and smoothing before they deliver to the customers. Their designs, their glaze, and their quality speak for itself.
The design of the Pottery is a reflection of the expertise and creativity of its artist. The more delicate and beautiful the design is, the higher is its price.
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What is Blue Pottery - Everything You Need to Know