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Growing resurgence of clay as a sustainable life choice

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With a focus on improved eating habits, there seems to be a parallel rise in pottery sales

With a focus on improved eating habits, there seems to be a parallel rise in pottery sales

A place in the heart of the city that still oozes rustic charm and reminds one of the bygone times is Pottery Town in Bengaluru which is home to generations of clay workers. As it is off-season — when they are not working on making idols and clay items for festivals — only biryani bowls and tea kullads were seen fresh off the wheel, baking in the sun on the porch of every house. 

Rajshekar (45) who has been a potter for more than 15 years and is representing the fifth generation of his family in the profession, spoke about the business and how clay cookware is seeing a resurgence. He says, “The pottery business depends on the market’s demands. Currently, there is a demand for biryani bowls, tea kulhads (handle-less clay mugs) and lassi glasses both by five-star hotels and pocket-friendly restaurants. Bengaluru needs 50,000 kulhads a day and I make around 1,000 daily.”

Rajshekar of Potter’s Town, Bengaluru
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Rajshekar, a master craftsman started his career making pots for a popular food chain; at the time clay pots were mostly used by hotels and restaurants for sweets.

Once a regular in every home, clay cookware went into a decline but has seen a huge surge in the past few years. Clay pots not only enhance the flavour of food, but also adds significant minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, sulphur, and magnesium, to a dish.

A common sight at Potter’s Town, Bengaluru

A common sight at Potter’s Town, Bengaluru
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Dinakaran (43) left his corporate job 15 years ago to pursue his passion for pottery. “Customers run the business, so I provide whatever they demand,” says Dinakaran. He believes that a businessperson should have a thorough understanding of both the business and the clients.

Pottery ware in India

Longpi: Locally called Longpi Ham in Manipur, this pottery is made from a paste of ground black serpentinite stone and a special brown clay. Shaped by hand, without use of a wheel, the pots are sun dried and polished with the leaves of a regionally-grown tree called Chiron.

Molela: This style of pottery flourished along the River Banas, in Rajasthan and became famous for its decorative terracotta plaques. Artisans have now branched out into creating pottery and jewellery as well. Soft, dry clay is beaten and sieved before being moulded. The final product turns fiery red when baked or a shiny black if fired in a closed kiln.

Bishnupur: This famous style of pottery from West Bengal using burnt or baked soil, can be traced to the eighth century from Panchmura village in Bishnupur, prospering under the Malla dynasty. Artisans initially gained fame for creating their signature long-necked horses and terracotta temple tiles, but have since turned to fashioning home decor items and pottery to survive.

Khavda: According to custom, this painted pottery form of Gujarat sources mud from the marshlands of the Rann of Kutch. Shaped by men of the Kumbhar community and painted by the women with red, black, and white clay-based paints, this traditional form of cookware is under threat of dying out.

The current market needs tandoors for restaurants, kulhads for cafes, clay cookware for household needs, and customised products. He also includes clay refrigerators and clay compost bins in his pottery collection. Dinakaran claims that after the pandemic as people began to utilise clay items again, the pottery industry began to revive and is in a better position than it was before COVID-19.

Chandrashekhar (44), who is also carrying on the family heritage, had a magnificent collection of car-shaped and human-head planters. He, too, bases his business on the needs of his customers and idol sculptors. 

Car shaped planters at Potter’s Town, Bengaluru

Car shaped planters at Potter’s Town, Bengaluru
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Many potters feel business has boomed after COVID-19 as individuals grew more health-conscious and strove to improve their eating habits. On a larger scale, as people try to combat global warming by planting trees and nurturing indoor plants, potters contribute to the cause by creating a variety of exquisite, eco-friendly planters that entice customers to have as many plants as possible in their homes.

Head-shaped planters at Potter’s Town, Bengaluru

Head-shaped planters at Potter’s Town, Bengaluru
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement



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