When pottery takes a blue hue

When pottery takes a blue hue

Shiny spins

Pottery is one of the oldest crafts; a civilisation can be judged by the shards of pottery found in excavations.

It has developed over the centuries with new techniques, blue pottery being one such advancement.

The methods of blue pottery came from Persia and Turkey and had a great presence in the Middle East. The Mughal rulers brought it to India and it has put down roots here, primarily in Jaipur. Here, it took on another form with a whole range of new styles. 

From the conventional jars, urns, pots and flower vases, it has come a long way. Today, you have blue pottery tiles, bowls, teapots, tableware, plates, coasters, paperweights, pen stands, ashtrays, animal figurines, jewellery box, jug, candle holder, incense holder, cups and saucers, napkin rings and wall hangings.

When the city of Jaipur was founded in 1727 by Sawai Jai Singh I, craftsmen from all over the country were invited to come and make their home there. Royal patronage, lucrative offers and the attraction of living in a beautiful city led many artisans and craftsmen  to settle there. By the beginning of 19th century, the city was well established as a thriving art centre. In keeping with the traditions of his forefathers, Sawai Ram Singh II (1835-1880) set up a school of art and continued to encourage craftsmen.

Blue Pottery took an interesting route in finding its home in Jaipur. Sawai Ram Singh II attended a kite flying session and watched as his kite masters were engaged in battle with two brothers from Agra. When he saw that the brothers managed to bring down the royal kites almost every time, he was intrigued. He asked the brothers their secret. They told him that they were potters by profession and had coated their strings with the same blue-green glass that they used for their pots.

 Sawai Ram Singh II was so impressed that he invited the brothers to stay in Jaipur and teach glazed pottery at his new art school. The art flourished under the patronage of various Rajput rulers. Tiles of blue pottery are still found in the havelis and palaces there.

In the making of this no clay is used. The dough for pottery comprises quartz stone powder, powdered green glass, Fuller’s earth, borax, gum and water. It is fired in kilns at high temperatures and painted with metallic oxides in various shades of blue, and more recently, in colours such as pink, yellow and green. The blue is derived from cobalt oxide and green from copper oxide. Jaipur blue is easily the most popular style of pottery in India. 

Since its revival in the late 60s, it has become a flourishing industry with Jaipur as the hub, particularly in the small town of Khurja. Promoted by craft societies and NGOs, blue pottery is found in most exhibitions across the country.