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Making magic with clay

August 25, 2019
 

Pottery is a dying and largely unrecognised art.

From piggy banks, water coolers and oil lamps to pots and vases, the art of shaping clay is a craft that is often easily neglected.

SAMAA TV spoke to artisans who have dedicated their lives to this work.

Sharing the traditional production process of clay pots and items, potter Adam Jan says the process is just magic with five fingers. “Not just anyone can turn dust into utensils,” he said.

He shared the common reactions potters get from people. “We work hard, but customers often object that this is just sand and it shouldn’t be priced that much,” he said, explaining that people don’t realise the effort that goes into taking just a stone and turning it into an item made of clay.

It is crushed, sun-dried, soaked, shaped and then baked.

Another potter, 50-year-old Zulekha Bibi, told SAMAA TV it started as a way for her to support her mother when she was young. “I had no other job to do,” she said.

Zulekha’s mother wanted her to learn the skill of pottery-making from her sister-in-law. “I learned it bit by bit and then started a shop with my mother on a 50% partnership,” she said.

Abdul Hameed has been in the pottery business for the last seven to eight years.

“Handicraft is one of the biggest sectors of Pakistan and the government even earns a lot from its export,” says Hameed.

Nabahat Lotia, a studio ceramist, explains the difference between a kumhar (potter) and a ceramist. She says the basic difference is that a kumhar has less exposure and fewer facilities at their disposal.

Lotia said a studio potter has special skills and special glazes and a kumhar doesn’t have that, which is often why people call work by a ceramist ‘art’, but perceive items made by a kumhar as something common and ‘not fancy’.

“Because of the mass production [of items by kumhars], people have a misconception that it is not art,” she said.

“I want kumhars to get their due respect. They are the real artists,” said Lotia, adding that a ceramic artist only makes one piece at a time, but a kumhar produces 100 pieces of art daily.

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