Making Blue Pottery in Jaipur
It takes at least twenty six days to create a single piece of blue pottery
It was 1985, and a 22 year old boy from a family of contractors came to Padmashri Kripal Singh Shekhawat wishing to become an artist. That was Gopal Saini, who would become the next Shilp Guru (master craftsman) of the rare art of blue pottery in India.
Blue pottery’s origin lies in Iran, from where it gradually spread to Delhi and Agra through Afghanistan. Today Jaipur’s blue pottery has a history of its own, but as technology advances in certain directions, the value and authenticity of original arts has come under shadow. Blue pottery already being a rare art seems poised to disappear.
Saini once applied for the job of university professor while still assisting Kripal Singh. His master opposed his decision, and moved the 25 year old to become an independent artist. “I felt ashamed at first, when I saw my peers settling down in their lives while I was struggling to make space for myself in the art world. But now I think I made the right decision.”
Blue pottery involves 48 processes carried out by specialised artisans that take years to understand. Only skilled and experienced artisans are able to serve as it needs dedication and patience to gain each skill. It takes at least twenty six days to create a single piece of blue pottery.
With the art becoming extinct, Garima, 28 and eldest daughter of Saini decided to follow his footsteps. As a woman it wasn’t easy for her to pursue her choice. Her father supported her decision. Garima has since helped digitise their business adding to new developments in the studio. Skeptical at first, Saini is now confident his daughter will emerge the better artist.
Gopal and Mahendra paint flower pots in the studio. Gopal Lal Kumawat, 65 has painted four decades. He learnt painting from his father who was a painter himself. He has travelled extensively in India, making temple murals in his younger years. Mahendra Gujjar, 32 was guided to the profession by his aunt who used to work here as an artisan. Both have worked together at the studio for a long time but they feel there is no future in it, especially Mahendra.
Harshit Saini is an independent photographer and filmmaker in Jaipur