Rising costs, low returns forcing potters out of the profession

The potter’s wheel that was once spinning continually has now fallen silent. Its user does not find a need for it as he has embraced other more profitable professions. Pottery is witnessing a downturn because the younger generation is opting out of pottery in search of better opportunities in other fields.

“Today’s generation has no interest in pottery. They don’t want to strain themselves and are interested only to make a quick buck. In addition, the rising costs and low returns also act as influencing factors that urge them to migrate to other professions,” says V. Rajagopal (62), who has been in the profession for more than 40 years.

The number of present generation potters who have dutifully chosen to take forward their family profession is few and far between.

“I don’t want to leave this profession. It has been my family profession for several decades. Since my childhood the smell of clay has intoxicated my senses as I watched my family elders create out beautiful masterpieces out of it. That fuelled my interest and made me a potter for life,” says S. Sakthivel, all of 20. The youngster has been spinning the wheel for 10 years now. He is among the few youth who still practise pottery in his home at Kondayampettai.

A majority of his peers do not share his enthusiasm for the profession. Instead, they have become drivers and masons and a few of them are even pursuing higher education in search of more income and a comfortable life.

Many factors have contributed to this changing trend. While rising costs and low returns pose problems for potters, the time consuming nature of the job also acts as a deterrent.

While the creation of the earthenware and clay items such as pots, ovens, and other utensils demands long working hours and high level of skill, the returns received are only sufficient for a hand-to-mouth existence, say potters.

“We sell a clay pot (Ponga Panai) to retailers for a wholesale price range between Rs. 25 and Rs. 150 based on the size of the pot. We can only earn a profit of Rs. 5 to Rs. 10 per pot and that hardly meets our expenses,” says S. Ramu, a potter.

Adding that the demand for earthenware is decreasing gradually, he says the approaching Pongal season, which usually witnesses high demand for clay Ponga paanais (mud pots to make rice during the harvest festival), has been a dampener this year.

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