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Casting of each tile

The process till date appoints no machinery and is extensively hand-crafted.

Finished tile fresh off the mould

Plaster of Paris moulds are crafted by the artisans, into which the mixture is poured and cured. Each finished tile is sanded with sandpaper, and coated in engobe.

The designing

Artisans then impress patterns onto each individual tile using cobalt oxide, which on firing yields the required shade of blue.

The finished product

The tiles are then further adorned in oxide and ceramic colours, glazed and fired at about 750 to 800 degrees celsius, therefore fashioning the intricately patterned tiles.

A collection of blue pottery tiles

The tiles, by virtue of being authentically attractive, rely heavily on expert craftsmen, thus rendering wholesale manufacturing close to impossible.

A mosaic of blue pottery tiles

Semi- transparent on some occasions, the tiles are usually decorated with animal and bird motifs.

Blue ceramic artwork on doors

Being low temperature fired pottery, blue pottery isn’t particularly suitable for flooring, and is thus frequently featured in the form of bathroom tiles, wall panels, table tops and so on.

Blue pottery decorative plate

The works of Natha Arts are marketed exclusively to hotels, gift shops, government showrooms and tourists.

Blue pottery in different forms

Blue pottery, used as more than just tiles, but in the form of sculptures and containers

Blue pottery also uses colours other than the typical blue

Over a period of time, materials and colours were added to add to the strength of the tile.

A lighter tone of blue pottery

In Jaipur, originally crafted in shades of turquoise, blue pottery tiles are now better acknowledged in darker hues of blue, tempering towards Indigo.

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Workspace 10 Nov 2017

Tales of Indigo: Blue Pottery Tiles, the immigrant craft that grew to be inherently, regally Indian

In CQ’s quest to unearth the hues and essence of Indigo with our series Tales of Indigo, we sway away from its traditional dye form, to experience a different dynamic altogether – Indigo in ceramics. The colour seeps in to ceramics to create blue pottery tiles, the originally Persian form of art/craft that made its way to India, and is in itself inherent to India and its cultural heritage. Tracking down its principal manufacturers and consumers in Jaipur, we study the process that brings this craft to life and how it has transformed over time.

Jaipur, in the early 1800s saw the infiltration of a large population of immigrants into the city, and among them, potters and traders from Persia. On one celebratory occasion of a city-wide kite flying competition, the potters from Persia were said to have defeated the king, Maharaja Ram Singh II, himself. Instilled with curiosity, the King summoned the potters to reveal the technique responsible for their victorious feat in kite flying. The potters then explained their usage of ceramic glass on the kite threads, a technique that ensued and is used till date. Impressed, Maharaja Ram Singh II asked the potters to stay on in the city, and teach this foreign craft of blue pottery. The passage of time soon made the art, formerly Persian-Turkish, a substantial aspect of Indian art and architecture.

The craft of creating blue pottery tiles

Being of Persian origin, the tiles are affiliated with the Persian Blue, a kind of dark blue, tempering towards Indigo. Although, in Jaipur, originally crafted in shades of turquoise, blue pottery tiles are now better acknowledged in darker hues of blue, tempering towards Indigo. Speaking to the owner of Natha Arts, Kusum Natha, we learnt about the meticulous procedure that goes into creating the tiles, which in itself is an art. The process till date appoints no machinery and is extensively hand-crafted. 

Casting of each tile

The process till date appoints no machinery and is extensively hand-crafted.

Starting with the preliminary raw materials, a mixture of powdered quartz, ground glass, Fuller’s earth, Katira gum, and sodium bicarbonate is fermented overnight. Plaster of paris moulds are crafted by the artisans, into which the mixture is poured and cured. Each finished tile is sanded with sandpaper, and coated in engobe. Artisans then impress patterns onto each individual tile using cobalt oxide, which on firing yields the required shade of blue. The tiles are then further adorned in oxide and ceramic colours, glazed and fired at about 750 to 800 degrees celsius, therefore fashioning the intricately patterned tiles. Semi- transparent on some occasions, the tiles are usually decorated with animal and bird motifs. 

Finished tile fresh off the mould

Plaster of Paris moulds are crafted by the artisans, into which the mixture is poured and cured. Each finished tile is sanded with sandpaper, and coated in engobe.

“Created by the local artisans, even the royal allure of the blue pottery tiles, does nothing to diminish its tasteful local style, the immigrant yet vernacular craft – an oxymoron of sorts.”

Speaking of the choice of colours, Kusum adds, “Over a period of time, materials and colours were added to add to the strength of the tile, but the colours used are always low temperature colours, since they are best suited for this kind of pottery”. 

The designing

Artisans then impress patterns onto each individual tile using cobalt oxide, which on firing yields the required shade of blue.

The tiles, by virtue of being authentically attractive, rely heavily on expert craftsmen, thus rendering wholesale manufacturing close to impossible.  

The finished product

The tiles are then further adorned in oxide and ceramic colours, glazed and fired at about 750 to 800 degrees celsius, therefore fashioning the intricately patterned tiles.

 
A collection of blue pottery tiles

The tiles, by virtue of being authentically attractive, rely heavily on expert craftsmen, thus rendering wholesale manufacturing close to impossible.

An essence of the local art

Blue pottery tiles are widely sold in Jaipur, making it a part of the vernacular decor. Being low temperature fired pottery, blue pottery isn’t particularly suitable for flooring, and is thus frequently featured in the form of bathroom tiles, wall panels, table tops and so on. 

A mosaic of blue pottery tiles

Semi- transparent on some occasions, the tiles are usually decorated with animal and bird motifs.

 
Blue pottery decorative plate

The works of Natha Arts are marketed exclusively to hotels, gift shops, government showrooms and tourists.

Marketing exclusively to hotels, gift shops, government showrooms and tourists, Kusum says they have build quite a fleet of regular clientele. Sticking to good old fashioned publicity, Natha Arts advertises on newspapers and magazines, but largely prefers word-of-mouth to do its job. 

Blue ceramic artwork on doors

Being low temperature fired pottery, blue pottery isn’t particularly suitable for flooring, and is thus frequently featured in the form of bathroom tiles, wall panels, table tops and so on.

High-cost, meticulously crafted and hand rendered, the tiles have secured a respectable position in terms of market value, making it an exclusive commodity. Flaunted in parts of the palace decor, the tiles also carry an inherent sense of royalty. But created by the local artisans, even the royal allure of the blue pottery tiles, does nothing to diminish its tasteful local style, the immigrant yet vernacular craft – an oxymoron of sorts. 

Blue pottery also uses colours other than the typical blue

Over a period of time, materials and colours were added to add to the strength of the tile.

 
Blue pottery in different forms

Blue pottery, used as more than just tiles, but in the form of sculptures and containers

 
A lighter tone of blue pottery

In Jaipur, originally crafted in shades of turquoise, blue pottery tiles are now better acknowledged in darker hues of blue, tempering towards Indigo.

Natha Arts works with brass decorative wooden carved doors, blue pottery, paintings, marble statues and other handicrafts items. Find out more about their work on their facebook page.