Poetry in earthy hues

TRADITIONAL MOTIFS: Some of the items on display at the Uttam Nagar pottery exhibition.

TRADITIONAL MOTIFS: Some of the items on display at the Uttam Nagar pottery exhibition.   | Photo Credit: Photo: M. Vedhan


A contemporary touch is added to pottery and wood craft to create an arresting array of artefacts.

The past decade has seen many ancient craft forms find contemporary expression, be it in the design or theme or embellishment. Especially so, when it comes to pottery and wood craft. Take white pottery, for example. It has come a full circle, beginning with mere pots and pans and now evolving into jewellery, decorative items and architectural elements.

This change is reflected in the work of the artisans of Uttam Nagar near Delhi, the largest potters colony in Asia, and the jhangirs or carpenters from Rajasthan.

The potters of Uttam Nagar, a 50-year-old settlement, come from traditional ‘kumhar’ clans as also non-paramparik families from all over North India. Their forte is black pots of various shapes and sizes, some hand-painted using natural dyes. Urns, pillars, tables, and icons which have faces, birds and floral motifs painted on them make superb craft statements.

Minute detailing

Anand and Bippro Manjhi, originally from West Bengal, have been trained in Uttam Nagar by their father for nearly five years. As Anand adds final touches to a painted sunflower adorning a black vase, he explains the process. “My father makes a model in ‘mitti’ (mud which comes from UP) complete with etching and the details. We then make a mould using plaster of Paris on either side of the vase. When dry, the plaster of Paris is removed and two ‘dye’ replicas are made, which are again coated with mitti. After finishing and drying, the vase is kept in a ‘bhatti’ (kiln) for eight hours. Enamel painting is done followed by lacquering.”

Anand likes to experiment and tries to cater for the changing tastes of his clients. His finely etched black urns and pots are in great demand and find use as garden and outdoor accessories.

Wooden delights

Ladho Ram Jhangir belongs to a paramparik family of Rajasthani wood craftsmen, who to this day do everything themselves… from cutting the Rajasthani babool tree, slicing its trunk to creating exquisite items out of these chunks of wood.

Jhangir likes to innovate and this can be seen in the jhoolas, side boards, display cases and tables which fuse iron and wood to stunning effect. The medium may be traditional but the idiom is modern. He has just finished designing a coffee table with charpoy legs and iron jaali work.

Says Jhangir, “I get the jaali work done by a lohar (ironsmith). I do the etching and the embossing myself. The antique finish is achieved using burnt powder mixed with Fevicol.”

The Uttam Nagar pottery of Anand and Bippro Manjhi and Rajasthan wood craft by Jhangir are showcased at Crafts Bazaar, Corporation Community Hall, 21/30, C.P. Ramaswamy Road, Alwarpet, till April 27.

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