Water jars

January 4

Visited the famous water pot making village on 4 January 2015, located on one side of the river, with the village sliced in two by the new bridge. Lots of activity despite it being a Sunday, full moon day and Independence Day (independence from the British).

Two types of clay are used, each is broken up before being mixed. The clays are one yellow and more silty and the other redder, more iron rich and with more stony pieces it seemed. Feeling the clay off-cuts from the potters wheel, the clay was quite plastic, more so than the riverbank clay being used in Yandabo.

The main pottery buildings are large and shed-like. Most had a thatched roof using bamboo and perhaps some palm leaf. Inside the pot making shed, many large pots stood ready, drying slowly in the shade. One shed had multiple wheels – perhaps 12 or more, but with only one potter working. Apparently this shed often has just 3 potters working, and the potters move from wheel to wheel. Each pot is made on a bat, and is taken outside to firm up after the first part (lower half) has been made.

Pot making technique for the large water pots is a coiling process, and a hand turned wheel and big coils; the coil rested on his shoulder as the potter pinched it in. Then he went back in reverse and thumb wiped it in to consolidate the form. The work was incredibly even, and each row came up very evenly. And he worked quickly, turning the wheel with one foot; as the pot gets larger a helper – perhaps his wife or another person turns the wheel, and as the pot gets taller, he adds another small timber seat underneath himself.

Then the pot is refined progressively, with a hooped turning tool outside and his hand supporting the inside. A series of timber tools for shaping float in a water pot next to him. When he gets to the top of the first section, and before setting aside to firm up, he trims the rim flat and then throws the rim to form a joining point. Later we saw someone tidying a very visible join. The pot gets few ties of straw or plastic tie perhaps, presumably to help stabilise it as it dries.

The potter earns 10,000 kyat a day, if he makes 4 large pots. He is not the owner, he works for the owner. If he has a helper to turn the wheel, he shares his earnings with that person. Sometimes husband and wife work together, meaning they don’t have to split the payment.

In one area where raw pots were quite dry, we saw that they had cut back cracks preparing to refill them. Drying the large pots is a challenge, and small metal pots were lit and lowered inside. In one place a young woman was lowering the metal pots in and out of some puts quite quickly, and then holding it over a group of small glazed animals, presumably to dry them too.

The large water pots are raw glazed, using a large mop. The glazing is roughly done, and most pots show a lot of glaze drips down the unglazed lower wall. The glaze is obviously quite fluid, based on the number of supports that had glaze on them. 

Some of the bowls are just bisqued, but may not be glazed later – we saw unglazed bowls for sale.

Glaze has in it basalt, silica and ….. They use a chalk slip layer to create the yellow where the chalk is, and it’s brown where the chalk isn’t. They use cobalt for the green – presumably with chalk under layer to create yellow + blue = green? San said there were two glazes – brown and black – but it seems a puzzle still to me. Perhaps someone has written up the process?

The kilns were a single chamber with a sloping floor. The entry arch and structure were made of brick, beautifully laid. Perhaps these are like the kilns that Siang saw down in Twante? They were loading the big pots near the flue end of the kiln and stacking smaller pots tightly around them. Flash light photos of the stacking revealed the amount of dust there.

The form of the kiln is very like the Cambodian “Angkorean” kilns; interestingly they had a flue, and San said they had a spy hole in or near the flue. In terms of temperature, San said they get to over 1000 C but I suspect it is quite a bit higher.

Pots are stacked on three point rings, or just rings without legs, made in a range of sizes. Some people seemed to just make smaller pieces, including just rings.



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