Visiting Yandabo pottery village (Myanmar)

Yandabo is a pottery producing village – water pots, steamers, rice pots, money boxes, and horseshoe-shaped stoves. It is also famous historically as the place where the Yandabo Treaty was signed, a treaty to end the first Anglo-Burmese war. Yandabo is located up river from Bagan. We visited on 31 December 2014, on our Pandaw trip up the Ayeyarwady River (previously the Irrawaddy River) from Yangon to Mandalay.

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Wonderful visit. All of the family workshops and materials laid out before us: clay delivered onto the river bank and stacked and stored in each compound; straw, leaves, kindling, and wood ready for firings; open and covered working areas. A pottery production system! The family compounds, enclosed by woven bamboo fences, were linked by a network of lanes, each deep in soft powdery clay dust. Bullock carts move materials around, kicking up the dust.

The clay seems to have a good percentage of mica as does the sand. The pot I bought in Sale is similar. Now I would describe the pattern as an oblique fishbone pattern – much like the vertical fishbone pattern on the sample picked up in Yandabo.

Watching the pots being thrown and then beaten out was great. The patterning happening progressively. The throwing was off the hump with very large wedged clay lumps put on the wheel head. Even centring of the top was rudimentary by some throwers, but more skilled by others with a strong downward push to open out and centre at the same time. Be good to study this more from my videos it may offer me some other possibilities for my throwing. One thrower was using a piece of cloth or chamois to compress and refine the very important rim.

Firing was in large bonfires; we lucked upon a firing that was almost finished; it was being topped off with rice straw and ash, the straw bursting into flame with the residual heat. The process seemed to be designed to even up the temperature and close off the ‘kiln’.


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