Clay, Terracotta & Glazed Ceramics

Clay, Terracotta & Glazed Ceramics

In Bangladesh the potters usually collect black clay from the paddy fields and ponds about seven to eight metres below the surface while sandy clay is collected from the riverbanks or paddy fields at the depth of one or one and half metres from the surface. For digging, an iron spade is normally used. After digging the clay is carried to the potters village or work place by boats, bullock cart or physically on the head or shoulders in baskets. The clay is stored in the shed or courtyard as many potters maintain a special place in the courtyard to preserve the clay.

Clay is preserved normally for a couple or months or sometimes as long as a year, so that it becomes suitable for shaping. It is proved that the longer the clay is kept exposed to the elements the better its quality and the more useful it is for pottery making.

The basic equipment used is the potter’s wheel - a strong wood circle connected with short wooden spokes, when turned on a pivot of hard wood or iron, is the basic tool of the village potter. The carefully prepared clay is thrown, and spun on the wheel, by the craftsman to skilfully shape the item required. At the outset the required amount of clay is cut of from the stored clay. It is processed in the open with a thorough beating with an iron spade and then kneaded with the hands or feet. The clay thus becomes soft and free from impurities like stones, pebbles, wood pieces etc - this process is repeated about seven to eight times. Small round clay pieces are then formed called buti which are used as a base for giving shape or form to any vessel. Or they are set onto a mould, para, and beaten with a wooden hammer or dola which gives it a flat round shape. In the mould the clay is beaten with a hammer with one hand and turned over by the other hand, till it acquires the shape of a bowl which is then left in the sun for 10 to 15 minutes.

After this with the help of a flat shell, the rim of the bowl is shaped and smoothened with a wet cloth pad, and again kept in the sun for 10 to 15 minutes and covered with a thin cloth or gunny sack, so that it does not harden and crack.

In the next stage, in order to give the final shape of the vessel, another mould is used, which is called atael. This is a wooden mould, the top of which is very smooth. Before it is used some ash powder is rubbed over so that the clay object can be removed easily.

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