Nepal pottery in tourism bouquet


KATHMANDU: Thimi's Prajapati potter community doesn't use the elegant little wheels most of us picture potters working with. They use old tyres filled with concrete that weigh more than 300 kg. “Starting the wheels is so laborious. It is the only aspect of pot-making that Thimi's women don't participate in,” said Tulsi Bahadur Prajapati, a local potter.

Men turn these improvised wheels with a pole at a frenzied pace until the tyre is spinning fast enough for them to throw two or three pots in about five minutes. A high rate of potters deserting their traditional vocation is disconcerting, but by no means surprising. But Thimi's potters have a lot more incentives to alter their archaic techniques. Their works are found at Hotel Yak & Yeti, Koto restaurant, and Hotel Kido. And, colourfully glazed coffee mugs from Thimi Ceramics appear to be a staple in any expat's kitchen.

The Nepal Ceramics Co-operative Society, which now supplies materials for 14 pottery workshops and 37 potters from Thimi and Bhaktapur. “You can't get all ingredients for the glaze in Kathmandu,” informed proprietor of Om Everest Ceramics Laxmi Krishna Prajapati. The ingredients necessary for glazing would be prohibitively expensive and difficult for most potters to obtain. But working collectively, they can procure these materials at a reasonable cost, said Laxmi Prajapati.

The glazed pottery produced here is technically superior to ceramics in Europe, China, India, and America. It is lead-free and non-toxic. He said that valley potters have been using the brittle red terracotta clay locally available and found under the topsoil of rice fields. If the research is successful, there is hope that domestically produced pottery will the best in the ceramic markets.

For the moment, technical advances being made in workshops in Thimi and Bhaktapur signal that a movement to reinvigorate Nepal's ceramic work is underway. If nothing else, the Nepal Ceramics Cooperative Society is working to ensure that Kathmandu Valley's pottery tradition won't decline further.

Potters all over Nepal work extremely hard for negligible economic compensation. Of the roughly 1,000 workshops in Thimi, only four or five use modern potting technology such as electrically-powered wheels and kerosene-fuelled kilns.

Since they don't have enough land to grow their own food, many potters walk to farms when rice and wheat are being harvested, trading storage pots for grain. They make just enough profit to survive.

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