If you are person who is having cravings to discover a local industry, here you can visit a pottery village in Sri Lanka during your stay at the ‘’teardrop’’ island. Clay industry, known as ‘’Pottery’’ of course is a common industry which you can find at any other corner in the world map.
There are countries concern this industry as a religious where you can find out distinguish galleries and studios immersed the best of the sophistications and the prestige. China, Japan Morocco, Mexico, Italy are listing for few fine examples for the countries as such where they are moderating and preserving the traditional pottery with handling & firing techniques. Why the pottery has gained a considerable international recognition where there are even experts who still following their researches from past to present and east to west? one common state claiming by most of them is, ‘’pottery is very much like practicing a meditation’’
Background to the pottery industry of Sri Lanka may setting back to 1120 BC as a painted pot has discovered by a recent excavation. But the pottery industry was formally instilled by a craftsman came along with Sangamiththa Teri who brought the sapling of the Sri Maha Bhodi tree during the rulings centered Anuradhapura as per the ancient inscriptions and literary chronicles.
Sri Lanka is also a hub of pottery where its traditions lays an unique forte in the world of pottery and Clay pottery making has become one of the traditional industries in Sri Lanka. Giving some more insight for traditional clay pottery in Sri Lanka, there are villages in the country who are still engaged in manual clay pottery industry heritted from the feudalist origin system and have commercialized today. Pottery is their source of living. But sadly, as a result of feudalism back then these clay pottery producers are identified as low caste people in the rural culture in Sri Lanka and they are naturally marginalized, underprivileged and ruled out by the other communities in general back then. When you visit pottery village in Sri Lanka you can see every veranda of their small houses is lined with stack of finely crafted potteries and women employees are a common sight you’ll be exploring those engaged with making clay pottery.
If you can pay a little visit to one of those villages, situated at the center part of Sri Lanka, you’ll be privileged to experience how to made a traditional clay pot and also maybe you can support a small family by purchasing a small memory of a beautiful artwork to take back home.
Small demonstration to your journey of visiting a local clay industry will surely be little information. The clay used for pottery are collected mostly from the dried-out lakes or tanks. Therefore, collecting raw clay must be done during the dry season and then they are made to balls for storing purpose to use for the production of the whole year. As most potters are centered to one specific community or a village, their union to help each other in production is really admirable.
These gathered clay must be blended with sand and water and then should be seasoning for 2 3 days depending on the weather condition and afterwards dirt, roots must be removed. The next step is smoothening the prepared mixture. This is mostly done by using simple machines. Thus, the mixture must be rubbed by using hands in order to make sure that no air wholes are left as it effect the outcome and the quality of the product. The pottery experts have mastered the right amount of seasoning needed to be molded.
‘’Sakaporuwa’’ is the local machine used to be molded the clay a pot. The stone inside the vessel should be hold and must pat the vessel with the wooden bat from outside until the opening at the bottom is gradually closed as clay is merged across at the bottom. A ball of clay must place at the center and then start the molding. The patting still continues until there is an even spread of clay and thickness throughout the pot.
The shaped pot is then kept to dry for about a day as right amount of dryness is much important for pottery. If the pots are not dried for the right amount, pots could be break or crack when you inserting the kiln – a small hut-like enclosure where there is a covering of clay and tree leaves up to three to four feet with an opening in front to insert firewood similar to a huge oven. As the traditions of pottery in Sri Lanka goes back centuries, in every village they have their own wheel and kiln used to smoke the pots by coconut husks.
As you see in Sri Lanka, production process of pottery in these villages are fully based on traditional practices where there is a lack of technology improvements and process innovations. But during the 7th and 8th Century AD, glazed pottery was introduced to Sri Lanka. Glazed pottery technology is very special, where high temperatures are required to produce glazed vessels and the outcome is the exterior has a finish of almost porcelain like texture.
As Pottery is also used to show off the prestige of the noble community back then so as their craftsmen upgrade their technologies, to produce such prestigious items. These were considered as the symbols of power. Glazed pottery is one such product. In the archaeological context, glazed pottery is only used by the noble community. Thus, instead of gazed pottery, small kabok stones called guru gal are crushed and made into a liquid which is then used to paint the vessels. Modern day, chemicals have replaced the guru gal due to the lack of guru gal.
In earliest pottery the designs were very simple and had only lines and separation of color, the composition was very simple. Later on, the design and color composition became complex with more intricate designs of flowers, vines, birds and other motifs. Black red and yellow are the most common colors have used in traditional pottery.
Producing every piece of the craft using only hands instead of using any mold is the secret of the commercial success without compromising on the aesthetic value of the creation. Modern companies using their own tools and processes as a result of technology influence is abondance today but following the steps have been using over the centuries by potters is where the art and creativity is lays.
But pottery tradition is bound to continue in the years to come with a truly Sri Lankan identity blended with modernity which is another discovery you can make during your unforgettable travel journey