One of my favorite books is Traditional Pottery of India by Jane Perryman published in 2000. Organized by region, the book looks at the extraordinary (and endangered) work of India’s many potters: cookware, ovens, houses and staircases, cupboards, and elaborate figures for shrines. The photos are excellent, and reading Perryman’s descriptions is almost as good a visiting oneself.
Now Perryman is offering a DVD, Pottery Traditions of India with video shot by her friend and colleague Indru Bhatia who died prematurely in 2002. The DVD is a nice compliment to Perryman’s book. Watching it, I long to have a collection of Indian pottery. One of the enormous horses would look nice in my woodland walk, and an elephant by the back door. But most of all the pots, I covet the pots, many of which are thrown on a wooden wheel and then refined and enlarged by beating.
From the video, it is clear that being a potter in India is hard and dangerous work. There is no attention paid to dust protection. We see potters tossing ashes and rice dust with abandon. Preparing the clay is done by hand, with perhaps a wooden club for breaking up rock like junks. Pots are fired with armloads of rice straw or sticks. It is rigorous, physical labor. Still, it is sad that as people turn to plastic and metal for their households, they no longer desire the wares of their local potters. Even sadder, younger folks are going off to do other things. Potting skills developed and passed down for generations are being lost.
In addition to admiring the extraordinary beauty of Indian pottery, both the plain pots with perhaps only a fire cloud as decoration, and the intricately decorated wares, I admire the ability of seemingly everyone, men, women and children, to sit cross-legged on the ground for hours without the slightest difficulty. How do they do that?
I am glad that through her book and DVD Perryman has preserved and documented India’s pottery. Her video is available directly from her on her website: www.janeperryman.co.uk. I will be viewing it