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Traditional Ceramic and Handcrafted Pottery

We headed out to a village in Indonesia where the locals are known for their skills of traditional clay pottery and wood carving. From centuries ago, pottery is still the main source of income for the people in this village.

I managed to meet some locals who are still making this kind of traditional pottery. I asked them what is the process of creating the traditional pottery. Although I wasn't able to capture the the making of one product from start to finish, these are what I have documented.

They start by digging to find the right clay. The ideal colour of the clay would be red brown or white brown.

Clay preparation
Preparing an old clay for modelling

Once they collect enough clay, they will mix it with water and immerse it for 1-2 days. Then they will mash the clay manually or using a machine. Mashing the clay manually is done by stepping on it so the clay is soft.

Mashing the clay
Softening the old clay manually

After this stage, the clay is ready for modelling. Depending on the size, to carve a big statue may take up to 2 days.

Sculpted Clay Statue
Sculpting one statue around this size could take up to 2 days to complete.

When it's finished then the clay needs to be dried completely out in the sun so it is ready for final stage; the firing stage.
The firing usually takes a few hours. It requires wood, coconut leaves, and hays.

Traditional Backyard Oven
Traditional wood fired at the artisan's backyard

The firing will harden the clay so it is ready for finishing touches or painting. Depending on the design, the first stage of painting would be applying a white base. Now, I mentioned that I could not follow the whole process of one product. So I came across to this workshop and the artist had a row of clay piggy banks ready for the painting stage. These clay piggy banks are not the typical piggy shape, but it's the traditional javanese mens and womens shape.

Traditional Javanese Female Clay First stage of the painting of the traditional Javanese women piggy bank.
Traditional Javanese Male Clay
Traditional Javanese Mens piggy bank

The artist has to draw it carefully as there are no room for errors. The painting was done in a few stages and starts of with the lighter colours. 

Handpainted Clay Piggy Bank Artist
The artist, in his workshop, hand paints every piggy bank carefully
Hand painting takes time to include every details
Every little details are thought out and there is no room for errors.

When they are completely dry, they will be wrapped in plastic ready to be sold in the market.

Finished work of Handpainted Clay Piggy Bank
Finished product

After seeing this process, from start to finish, I have a new respect for the skilled artists and would think twice before haggling at the local market. These are not something that was mass-produced on the production line. It's a skill that has been handed down and takes years to master.

I hope you learn something new from this article. Please comment below and share your thoughts. 

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