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Artistic route, from kiln to kitchen

Trisha Bhattacharya, June 14, 2015, DHNS 20:29 IST

Ceramic wonders

A 600-year-old pottery art, whose ceramics are alluring in their sheen, with multifarious shapes, beautiful colouring, varied sizes and usage, has drawn admiration from around the world. Khurja ceramics are made in a city by the same name in the district of Bulandshahr, in Uttar Pradesh, about 85-100 km from Delhi. The ceramic industry here is called the Khurja Whiteware Cluster. Due to the hundreds of factories here, Khurja is known as the ‘ceramic city’.

The ceramics are used for ornamentation, as utility items in the kitchen or as tableware. Vases, crockery (including beer mugs), pickle containers, pots, candle stands and jars come under the awning of Khurja-ware. Also included are artware, bone china crockery, stoneware, earthenware, toys and figurines, sanitary ware and other chemical porcelain items. Khurja ceramic gardening tokens in the form of flower pots and planters are produced.

The ancestry of Khurja pottery is attributed to the many potters who had migrated from Delhi to Khurja during the reign of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq. It is also possible that many potters had settled here from overseas. Khurja ceramics’s appeal is ascribed to their surface embellishment in the form of historical and contemporary designs. Tribal, floral, Mughal and raised motifs are many of the designs exhibited.

One can see many colours on the ceramics: startling shades of blue, sober or dark green, simple hues of white and off-white, glazed grey, sparkly yellow, deep chocolate, muddy brown, sleepy mustard and other earthy and vibrant shades. An old world charm and raw enchantment accompanies these ceramics.

Khurja and some places in Delhi that display these ceramics present a colourful ambience for tourists. Basic processes for Khurja ceramic and pottery creation are similar in most factories, but there are variations within a few units.

The old kilns (downdraft) and the new, more efficient shuttle and tunnel kilns, firing systems and improved methods for the processing of raw materials are used for the production of Khurja ceramics. Raw materials used are China clay, Bikaner clay, ball clay, kundan clay, feldspar, quartz... Generally for ceramics, first the chosen clay is prepared, and depending on the output, it is made to undergo a specific procedure — throwing, turning, casting, jiggering and jolleying — to form greenware (a stage of clay), which is later fed into a firing system. Some products are glazed first, then fired.

Brothers S P Dadoo and Hari Dadoo founded Dadoos Ceramics in Khurja, in 1975. Naman Dadoo, Hari Dadoo’s son, shares, “We are involved in the creation of tableware, like plates, bowls, coffee mugs — in fact, most crockery, and artware, like flower vases, home decor like oil burners and potpourri. The raw materials used are 50 per cent clay and 50 per cent quartz, and feldspar (this could be potash or soda.) We also add some chemicals. Clay options available are China clay, Than clay, Amrapali clay... We usually get our clay from Rajasthan and Gujarat. We follow the jigger-and-jolley process. Moreover, hand-painting is done prior to glazing and firing.”

About the colours on the ceramics, Naman Dadoo explains, “We use high-temperature ceramic colours and chemical oxides in powder form. Colours are blended to prepare new ones. All the designs are hand-painted. Some are called decal prints. We use food-grade paints. There is no lead in our products. They are high-fired wares, that is, fired at high temperatures and are safe for food storage. It’s all handwork. Colours are stronger in Khurja ceramics, unlike on Jaipur pottery, which is only for the purpose of decoration. They use low-fired products and limited colours like blue, yellow and green.”

The brothers inform that their products are exported to Europe, Australia and USA. And, in the domestic segment, they cater to retail and hotel industry.

Images of moulds of clay, machines and processes, a potter’s wheel, handiwork, skills and patience of those craftspeople corroborate the essence and long-standing tradition of Khurja pottery. Coloured motifs following part narratives are engaged permanently on surfaces. Even monochromatic ornamenting, perfected by painters and craftsmen, makes the final pieces exquisite. Of course, they catch everyone’s attention.

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