Pakistan is enriched with skilled craftsmen, and you can find various kinds of crafts in Pakistan. Blue pottery is one of them.
Blue pottery is unique pottery which is different from the normal clay and terracotta pottery. Its white glaze with eye-catching blue paintings attracts the viewers. The distinctive style of this pottery makes it stands out from the rest and is still in demand all over the world.
History and Origin of Blue Pottery
Blue pottery is the traditional art of Multan. It's the reflection of Sufism culture and holds significant historical importance. But surprisingly, Multan is not the origin of this traditional art.
Blue pottery has a vast history, which dates back to the 9th Century. This art has evolved over time in different regions and took influence from various cultures.
Iraq (Persia) and the History of Blue Pottery
Many people believe China as the origin of blue pottery, but historical evidence shows that it was first created in Iraq (Persia).
Chinese white stoneware was famous in the world for centuries. Taking the inspiration of Chinese's white stoneware, the craftsmen of Basra in Iraq, created their own tin-glazed white pottery and decorated it with blue glazes. They created different motives and designs by painting stems, flowers, and leaves on white pottery with blue pigment, which was actually obtained from cobalt oxide.
The Persian blue pottery was first created in the 9th Century and is still recognized as their cultural trademark. Persian ceramic tiles, with blue glazed designs, can be found in the historical architecture of this region. These tiles and mihrabs were first produced in Kashan, a city of Persia. Later this beautiful art started to get popularity in different parts of the world, especially after it paved its way to China, through the opening of the direct sea route between Iraq and China.
China and the History of Blue Pottery
China is known as the hub of stoneware and pottery. Initially, the stoneware was used for storing water, but later they became a symbol of status. As the pottery started to use for decorative purposes, the Chinese people looked out for ways to make it more attractive and beautiful.
Chinese started to paint their white glazed pottery with blue cobalt pigments in the Tang Dynasty. The cobalt pigment creates a distinct blue colour which made this Chinese pottery unique. Later this art was flourished in the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, and was in demand in all parts of the world.
The Chinese art of decorating pottery with blue glaze is often known as Kashigari. The name derives its origin from the Kashgar city of China, which was well known for its white pottery decorated with blue shrubbery, branches, and leaves. This art was greatly inspired by Persian artists, and some historians even believe that kashigari name was derived from Kashan city of Persia.
Blue Pottery in Pakistan and Subcontinent
In the mid of the 19th Century, British archaeologist, Alexander Cunningham, discovered some tiles from Qillah Kohna Qasim Bagh. These were the glazed blue pottery tiles that were made used in a mosque made in the era of Muhammad Bin Qasim. The British archaeologist also claimed that these tiles are from the 9th Century.
According to the blue pottery craftsmen, when Muhammad Bin Qasim conquered subcontinent, some kashigars from Persia also came with him. They introduced their trademark kashigari art to the local people of Multan, and this is how Multan Kashi work is as old as Persian Kashigari.
Besides Multan, blue pottery art also gained significant popularity in Jaipur, Rajasthan, and in Kashmir districts of the subcontinent.
Multani Blue Pottery
Multani Kashi works further developed in this region and became popular as blue pottery. Multani blue pottery has its own distinctive style, which reflects the culture of this city. Multan is known for its Sufis and saints, and you can find the inspiration from Sufism in the Multani blue pottery.
The shrines of many saints and Sufis are in this region, and most of them are decorated with beautiful Multani blue pottery tile. Some noticeable blue pottery artwork can be witnessed at the shrines of Shah Yousaf Gardezi, Shah Rukne Alam, Ali Akbar, Shah Shams, Bahauddin Zakariya.
You can also find the premium quality blue pottery art in Sindh. Many historical and famous places, like Uchh Sharif, Talpuir tombs, Sawabi Mosque, and the shrine of Hazrat Haqani, Sachal Sarmast, and Shah Abdul Latif, are made with Multani blue pottery tiles.
Ustad Allah Wassaya, Ustad Allah Diwaya, Ustad Alam, Aziz Ahmad, Ahmad Ali, and Mian Rahim Buksh are some of the prominent blue pottery artists of Multan.
The private sector of Pakistan has played a significant role in the promotion of this art, and we have an Institute of Blue Pottery Development in Punjab. This institute was established by small industries corporation in 1985 and produced 100s of unique pieces. The skilled artists are keen to teach different techniques of blue pottery to the next generation, as they want this art to live forever.
Materials Used in Blue Pottery
The uniqueness of blue pottery is not just in its design, but also in its making. It is not made with simple clay; instead, a variety of ingredients are mixed to give the perfect glaze and smoothness to the utensils.
Traditionally blue pottery was made by adding different materials in Multani clay. The porter mixes quartz stone powder, scrap glass, rock salt, and special powdered gum in Multani clay with water. Some potters also use borax and soda bicarbonate in making of blue pottery.
All of these ingredients are mixed well and left overnight before they are kneaded. The clay undergoes different procedures, from kneading to rolling, and from moulding to scrapping, until it achieves its final shape.
Making of Blue Pottery
The process of making blue pottery is a long and difficult one. It took days to create a single piece of pottery. Even the dough took 3 to 4 days to get ready for moulding. But all these efforts are paid off when you see the glazing beautiful blue pottery praised all over the world.
The process of making blue pottery is carried out by expert craftsmen, and it is completely handmade.
First, the dough is kneaded. It is then flattened on stone and then moulded in a specific way. The moulded product is sanded and scraped several times till it is completely smooth. It is then dipped in a flour mixture to fill in any pores.
The pottery is then painted with special dyes made with oxides. After that, it is dipped in a specific glaze, that is made with powdered glass, borax, Zinc oxide, Potassium Nitrate, boric acid, flour, and Slurry. In the end, the pottery is fired in the kiln and then allowed to cool slowly, before it is packed and shipped to the sellers.
Variations in Traditional Multani Pottery
Multani clay is obtained from rivers, but it is now getting scarce. Therefore, craftsmen now use white clay to make blue pottery.
White clay is obtained from mountains and is found in abundance in Tharparkar, Mansheera, Mianwali, and in Peshawar districts of Pakistan. It is also known as china clay or ceramics. White clay is found in the forms of stones and is ground in machines for use in pottery.
Designs of Blue Pottery
You can find both Multani clay and ceramics blue pottery in Multan, and both are beautiful in their own ways. The worth and prices of the pottery vary with its material and design.
Multani blue pottery is completely hand-painted by expert craftsmen. But sometimes, pottery wheel is also used to draw even lines on the pots and vases.
Colours of Blue Pottery
As the name suggests, blue is the most dominant colour in blue pottery, and many artists stick to this traditional colour only. Blue glaze for the blue pottery is obtained from cobalt oxide, and look soothing and eye-catchy on white pottery base.
Green is also a popular colour of blue pottery which is obtained from copper oxides. Mostly it is used with blue glaze to add variation and colours in designs. But some artists opt for green glaze only instead of blue.
Yellow and brown colours are also used in blue pottery, especially for highlighting flowers and stem. But nothing beats the soothing and attractive contrast of blue and white.
Painting and Designs
Different artists create different designs based on their skills and inspirations. Like:
- Many artists follow various traditional designs, usually based on petals, leaves, flowers, and stems from painting their pottery.
- Replicating the motifs and designs, inspired by a particular era or civilization, is also a popular practice.
- Some artists create simple and complex geometrical patterns to beautify the pottery.
- Some create their own abstract designs, usually using spirals, stems, and leaves.
- Curves and florals hold an important place in most of the Multani blue pottery designs.
- Painting blue gods and goddess, on white pottery, is also a popular practice among followers of different religions.
- Birds and animals are also painted by some artists, but it is not much popular, especially in Multan.
- Full bhrai, antique design, bamboo design, and Neem Patti are some of the famous designs of Multani blue pottery.
Benefits of Blue Pottery
Pottery has many benefits, especially for our physical and mental health.
- The pottery itself is a therapeutic art. From the process of it's making to the sight of its final product, it helps in relaxing your mind.
- Pottery making allows you a creative outlet and gives you a sense of achievement.
- The energetic blue and cool green colour of Blue pottery, have a calming and soothing effect. Its sight can relax your mind and alleviate your mood.
- In contrast to synthetic materials, eating and drinking in earthenware, utensils are also beneficial for health. The natural elements in pottery preserve the freshness of food and water.
- The semitransparent blue pottery looks beautiful, and people even buy it for decorative purposes.
- This traditional art is providing a means of earning to a large number of people.
- Blue pottery is a centuries-old art and is a trademark of Islamic culture.
- Multani Blue pottery has become the identity of Pakistan, and foreigners buy it as a souvenir.
Demands and Trends of Blue Pottery
In the earlier days, blue pottery was done on tiles. These blue pottery tiles were used in shrines, tombs and mosques. It was a cultural trademark, inspired by Sufism. Later the art became more popular and was used in different historical and cultural places, but was used only for decorative purposes.
Blue pottery further evolved with time, and craftsmen started making kitchen utensils with blue pottery. These kitchenwares were not only beautiful but contained many health benefits. Initially, the art was confined to plates, vases, bowls, and other general crockery items, but now you can find a great variety of products in blue pottery. Special tea sets, lamps, planter, and other items are made solely for decorative purposes. You can find them not only in local households but also at various popular places of Punjab and Sindh.
The Popularity of Multani Blue Pottery
Blue pottery is the popular art of Asia and has now gained significant popularity all over the world. People from Europe, England, and the United States, buy these elegant pottery pieces and use it for decorative purposes.
Multani blue pottery is recognized all over the world and is even on display in many places in the world. You can also find articles made with blue pottery at the British Museum in London.
Blue pottery is praised by the visitors and craft lovers, and they are amazed by the hard work behind these beautiful semitransparent blue and white pieces. It is hard to resist buying blue pottery whenever you see them. It is a must-buy for tourists visiting Multan and its surroundings.
No doubt, Multani Blue Pottery is the pride of Pakistan and has become its identity.