The making process of blue pottery product is very tedious and time consuming. It involves various stages. The whole process can be divided into following main steps;
1. Making of the Dough
2. Making of the Molds
3. Casting of the Products
6. Attaching the Base
9. Color Making
Making of the Dough:
The raw materials like quartz powder, Multani Mitti, scrap glass, Katria Gond, and Saaji are used to make the dough for Blue Pottery. Firstly, Multani Mitti, scrap glass, Katria Gond, and Saaji are broken and grinded into fine powder. After this, these raw materials are weighed in specific amount- quartz powder (40 kg), Multani Mitti (1 kg), scrap glass (7 kg), Katria Gond (1 kg), and Saaji (1 kg) and are mixed together with water on a clean floor. The mixture is kneaded properly to prepare non-sticky dough which is kept for at least 7-8 hours before using it.
Making of the Molds:
Artisans develop molds in Plaster of Paris (POP) to caste the desired shape of the blue pottery products. The dough used in blue pottery lacks plasticity due to which they can’t be hard-pressed on wheel to make large products. The products break as the dough is pulled up. Therefore the products are casted in the molds. These molds are made in all desired shapes and sizes and then dried. One mold can be used for number of times if properly maintained. Small and easy product can be made in one mold, whereas complex items may involve more than two molds to make a final product. For example, a vase is made up in four parts. The central part is made out of two hemispherical molds. The neck and the base of the vase are turned on the potter’s wheel. All these four parts are joined together using the dough and the surface is smoothed.
Casting of the Products:
For casting of the products, desired amount of the prepared dough is taken and rolled over the base stone. It is then flattened using a flattening tool on the stone base till is gets a round shape like chapatti with an approximate thickness of 4-5 mm. This round shaped chapatti is then carefully placed in the mold. The mold is continuously wiggled so that the dough sets properly inside the mold. Once the dough is partially placed in the mold, the mold is filled with raakh (burnt wood dust) and is pressed gently so that the dough takes the exact shape of the mold. The extra edges of the dough which comes out of the mold are cut using a knife. After this the mold is turned upside down and removed. The prepared product along with raakh is kept for 1-2 days for drying.
After the product is dried and has taken the shape of the mold it is turned upside down and the raakh is removed from it. The extra raakh stuck on the walls are brushed off using a koochi (small broom). Generally while placing the dough in the mold the dough achieves an uneven thickness making the walls of the product non-uniformed. To create the walls of uniform thickness the product is sprinkled with a small amount of water to make it leather hard. After that with the help of Patti (iron knife) the extra material is scooped off making the walls even. The product is dried again for few hours.
The dried product now undergoes several stages of finishing process, firstly the rough edges of the product is removed by rubbing it on the stone base. This process is done gently by hand. After that the product is rubbed with regmaal (sandpaper) to remove the major grains, which occur due to raakh and scrubbing.
Attaching the Base:
The products are added with a base wherever required. Generally vases, small cups stands, etc. are provided with base to give them stability. The base is mainly fixed on the product (if round in shape) on the potter’s wheel. The product is turned upside down over the potter’s wheel and the base is sprinkled with water so that it gets leather hard. A small amount of dough is used along with some water to make the base. Once the base is made, the finished product is again left for drying for 1-2 days.
The dried product with base now goes through another finishing process which is mainly focused on smoothing the surface for painting. Therefore products are coated with a coat of dough mixed with water to fill the major holes and dried. Once dried it is rubbed with regmaal to smoothen the surface. A second round of coating is done once the product is rubbed. This time the product is dipped in the slurry, prepared by mixing quartz powder (10 kg), powdered glass (3 kg), Maida (edible flour, 2kg) and water. The process is done by hand in a way that the coating is done evenly. After drying the surface is again rubbed with regmaal and made ready for painting.
Once the surface smoothing process is completed the product moves to design development process. Artisan makes designs from his imagination and seldom uses a tracing. All products are individually painted by hand. Designing starts with making the outlines on a dried coated surface of the product. If the product is circular in shape it is placed on the potter’s wheel and the brush tip is touched on the surface while the wheel is rotating and thus the outline is made. The further intricate designs are made by hand using brushes of different sizes.
The colors used in Blue Pottery are mainly oxides and sometime Ferro metal. These oxides are available in the market in form of small lumps. The lumps of oxides are mixed with edible gum and made into powdered form by grinding. Edible gum acts as a binding agent.
The designs/outlines made on the products are now filled with the oxide colors using fine brushes. The main colors used in Blue Pottery are blue, green, yellow and brown. The product is kept for drying once painted.
After the paint is dried the product is glazed. A special glaze is prepared using different raw material in definite proportion. A mixture of powdered glass (21kg), Borex (17 kg), zinc oxide (1 kg) potassium nitrate (2 kg) and boric acid (7 kg) is prepared and heated till it melts. The mixture is allowed to cool and lumps are obtained which are again grounded into fine powder. This powder is further mixed with Maida(flour) and slurry is prepared using water. The final products are dipped in this solution in a way that it gets an even coating. The product is finally dried in sun.
The products prepared so far taken for firing in a closed kiln. They are stacked inside the kiln one on top of the other, separated by patiya and nali. The stacking is done with utmost care so that no two products stick to each other, there is proper circulation of heat within and the kiln is uniformly packed. If products stick to each other there are possibilities of them turning black. After stacking the kiln is closed from top. Heating is done from below using wood and charcoal. The temperature goes up to 800-850 degree Celsius. The firing process takes almost 4-5 hours. Thereafter, the kiln is left for slow cooling for 2-3 days. Any drastic change in temperature may lead to develop cracks in the products. Once the kiln is cooled, it is opened and the products are taken out and checked. In case of rejection, the pieces are separated. The final products are cleaned and are packed for the market.