AN INITIATIVE OF CRAFT REVIVAL TRUST.  Since 1999
IMAGE GALLERY KEYWORDS YOUR VIEWS
RAW MATERIAL
One of the most important factors contributing to the survival and growth of the potter’s craft is the variety of raw material available in Pakistan. The clay found around Hala, Sehwan, Multan, Gujrat, Sambrial and several other pottery centres possesses elasticity to a high degree. In Bahawalpur region the soil contains an appreciable quantity of glass-like sand. Recently deposits of China clay have been found in the northern areas of the country. At all these places communities of potters have been developing their skills almost uninterrupted for centuries.
PRODUCTS
The continued use of earthenware, even in villages, can be explained by not only the reasonable cost of the end product but its suitability for a number of requirements in the rural areas (vessels for the water wheel, pots for churning milk fodder troughs for the cattle, some music wares, rain drains for rooftops, tubs for kneading flour) has kept the craft of unglazed pottery alive. It has also been helped by the belief that fired-clay vessels are absolutely clean and hygienic. Another important factor that has contributed to the continued popularity of earthenware is its property of resistance to heat. For people living without means of cooling devices, there is nothing better than an earthen pot for storing water or milk products. Pitchers and bowls in different sizes and shapes are turned out in large number for populations exposed to long and harsh summers. And not only in villages, for in the metropolitan town of Karachi one can see earthen water containers fitted with taps of plastic or stainless steel. Also the earthen bowl (koonda) remains the ideal vessel for preparing curds throughout the country. Likewise, kheer (rice pudding) is traditionally cooled in earthen saucers and the qulfi (indigenous ice-cream) in earthen cones.Much attention has been paid to the shape of the long-necked water container (surahi) used by well-to-do families. The rounded pitcher is kept permanently on a stand made of bricks or wood, but the surahi is meant to be kept indoors in daytime and in the open at night, and till recently formed an essential part of travellers luggage. This necessitated the fixing of a small circular stand to its base and launched a style of ornamentation on the neck and the belly of the vessel, mostly in the form of raised floral patterns.Also surviving, mostly among nomadic tribes, is the tradition of making terracotta toys. Some of their horses, oxen, elephants, tigers, carts and catapults are indistinguishable from the centuries-old models. Of late the possibility of reproducing ancient motifs on terracotta pieces in new shapes, or putting new motifs on traditional ware, has been attracting the attention of modern designers.
PAPER THIN POTTERY
Chikni Mitti” is a specially fine and glossy clay abundant in the Cholistan region of Bahawalpur. This clay is used for making the renowned Kaghazi (thin as paper) Pottery. Chikni Mitti turns light brown or deep grey when fired and acquires a unique shine. Kaghazi pottery ware is exquisitely ornamented with lattice work and painted designs with white red and black colours.
GLAZED POTTERY AND TILES
Widely produced in Pakistan is glazed pottery – durable, aesthetic, easy to maintain, valued for its suitability for cooking and conserving food. People have learnt from experience that milk and cooked foods stay fresh longer in glazed earthen pots and dishes than in metal containers or that meat cooked on slow fire in a glazed earthen pot tastes better than that quickly stewed in metal utensils.The tile-maker’s craft flourished between the twelfth and the seventeenth centuries under the patronage of Muslim rulers and saints. The magnificent tile work done on hundreds of mosques, shrines, fortresses and tombs during this period has placed Pakistan among the countries possessing the richest treasures in this field. Although glazed tiles were used in Multan in the twelfth (the tomb of Shah Yusuf Gardezi) and the thirteenth (tombs of Shamsuddin Tabrizi and Bahaul Haz) centuries, those created for the mausoleum of Rukn-I-Alam in the fourteenth century furnish the best examples of Multan tiles. When Sir John Marshall described this tomb as one of the most splendid memorials ever erected in honour of the dead, he was moved no less by the beauty of its tiles – superlative surface decorations – in the words of a latter-day authority and the overall design of the building.This craft came to Pakistan from Iran and is still called Kashi work, indicating the original home – Kashan – of the craftsmen who started large-scale tile-making here. The Persian and Central Asian influence is no doubt evident in the shape and colours of the tiles but innovations dictated by local needs and tastes have given them features that easily distinguish them from Persian tiles. Even within Pakistan different materials were used for tiles in Sindh and Punjab and the surfaces of the tiles show marked variations. The Thatta tiles were made of hard-baked terracotta while the tiles used in Lahore were made of a composition of siliceous sand, lime, etc. In Thatta the tiles were applied flat to the buildings, to give an even surface, but in Multan the main tile patterns are in relief, in some places half an inch above the background. While in Sindh tiles were arranged in geometric designs, in Lahore the floral patterns dominated and animal figures were not uncommon.The range of glazed earthenware has been growing under the pressure of demand for new and different types of vessels. Extensive consumption of qahwa and tea has sustained a large-scale production of teapots and small cups without handles, similar to the traditional qahwa cups of the Central Asians. The favourite colours for glazing are blue and white – liked for its soothing effect on people exposed to a burning sun and for its heat-repelling property.The motifs and designs on all traditional pottery, glazed and unglazed, are derived form both nature and art traditions. Sunflower, pepal leaf, rose, fish, duck, camel, arabesque, and geometric designs are among the most common motifs. Since a large number of tiles are used in mosques and graveyards, the art of inscribing and embossing verses from the Holy Quran and other appropriate sayings has continued to flourish. The intricate nature of this work can be appreciated properly if one remembers that sometimes a tile design, covering several metres of surface, is made up of hundreds of tile-pieces which may be no bigger than half an inch square.For a long time the producers of glazed pottery and tiles used, besides indigenous material for glazing, dyes prepared from local plants and stones, but subsequently they started using chemical dyes. These dyes, however, did not prove to be entirely satisfactory and at present the better craftsmen prepare special colours by mixing natural extractions with chemicals.

MOTIFS AND DESIGNS
The motifs and designs on all traditional pottery, glazed and unglazed, are derived form both nature and art traditions. Sunflower, papal leaf, rose, fish, duck, camel, arabesque, and geometric designs are among the most common motifs. Since a good number of tiles are used in mosques and graveyards, the art of inscribing and embossing verses from the Holy Quran and other appropriate sayings has continued to flourish. The intricate nature of this work can be appreciated properly if one remembers that sometimes a tile design, covering several metres of surface, is made up of hundreds of tile-pieces which may be no bigger than half an inch square.

For a long time the producers of glazed pottery and tiles used, besides indigenous material for glazing, dyes prepared from local plants and stones, but subsequently they started using chemical dyes. These dyes, however, did not prove to be entirely satisfactory and at present the better craftsmen prepare special colours by mixing natural extractions with chemicals.

Gallery

Your views

PRACTITIONERS: INDIA

Access 70,000+ practitioners in 2100+ crafts across India.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

10,000+ listings on arts, crafts, design, heritage, culture etc.

GLOSSARY

Rich and often unfamiliar vocabulary of crafts and textiles.

SHOP at India inCH

Needs to be written.