Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Jaipur Blue Pottery

Jaipur Blue Pottery: A tale of two techniques

               In this blog post, I share tales of my attempts at exploring Jaipur’s famous blue pottery using two different techniques. I promise to someday try my hand at the potters’ wheel and make something out of clay and experience the bliss of molding and giving form to this earthy material. But for this journey, I chose a pre-made unfinished ceramic piece. Anyway before I jump ahead to tales of my DIY efforts, let me share a little bit about Jaipur’s blue pottery.

          Blue pottery of Rajasthan, India, is a Persian art form and was introduced in India by Muslims in the early 1800s. Recently popularized by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, a connoisseur of art; this once dying art was promoted and revived by his wife Maharani Gayathri Devi in the 1940s. Under the patronage of the queen, Kripal Singh Shekhawat, an artisan of repute, started experimenting with its form and color.
This beautiful craft continues to be the outcome of creative expression and skill of the craftsmen of Jaipur. The name blue comes from the eye catching blue dye used to color the pottery. Ground quartz stone, sodium sulphite, raw glaze, and Fuller’s earth is used instead of simple clay which marks the uniqueness of this style of pottery. White and blue are the conventional and traditional colors while pink, yellow, and green are also being used lately.

         As we marvel at the beauty of Jaipur blue pottery; let me move on to the tales of my attempts. As mentioned earlier, I chose short cut versions for this personal exploration. During my research for this project, I hit upon a mini light bulb moment which changed the direction I was taking, extended the initial scope of this project, and I ended up using two different techniques on two pieces. Both would qualify as pottery but both have different characteristics.

Part 1
         This is my at-home diy interpretation of Jaipur blue pottery using a glaze product that is designed to produce a high gloss finish or glaze on hard craft surfaces. This glaze is a purely decorative finish and is not food safe. I chose a pre made unfinished square planter intending to use it as a succulent planter or a small vase. Armed with a vision of what I wanted the piece to look like, and some motifs and patterns representative of Rajasthan, I began working on this. I drew out my pattern with a pencil and painted it with a thin brush using acrylic multi-surface paints. Keeping in mind pictures of blue pottery, I chose blues and whites predominantly but also included a bit of yellow and green.

               Finally I brushed on the triple thick high gloss product. I did opt for three coats of this product although the directions suggested one coat might work.

              This worked out wonderfully….it gives a glossy glazed look to the piece, maybe not as authentic as an actual glaze that might be used at the pottery studio but it works just fine, especially since it is not to be used for food. And this entire process of Part 1 was fairly easy and did not take much time.
I love the regal look on the faces of the King and Queen!

Part 2
            This part took me to my local pottery studio. Another short cut approach... I chose a pre-made unfinished small plate. I spent a few hours (ok, several!) at the studio painting out my pattern on this plate and once finished the studio glazes it and fires it in a kiln for you. The studio's paints are non-toxic, lead-free, food safe, and even dishwasher safe. 

after glazing and kiln firing

             What irked me most about this part 2 project process was the fact that for full depth of the paint and to not have brush strokes, it was recommended that I put three to four coats of each color. On hindsight, I should have chosen a simpler pattern keeping in mind that I needed to put 3-4 coats. Maneuvering around the intricate pattern keeping separate each color, painting it 3-4 four times was very time consuming and tedious. And using a commercial studio for pottery painting and glazing is not cost efficient. Nevertheless, several long hours later and $$$ later, I have to say that I loved this experience and am thrilled with the way the plate turned out. 

I think this piece is perfect for serving small eats!

So here are my two Jaipur blue pottery pieces, that I am enjoying sitting in my backyard on an early fall afternoon. The colors are so vibrant and the classic blue and white combination is so pleasingly soothing and stunning at the same time. I can’t wait to actually make a trip to Jaipur and bring back a few authentic pieces to add to my collections. The touch of blue will add an element of royal elegance and share a story of my experiences. In the meantime, I look at my DIY blue pottery pieces and revel in a job well done.