Pottery is perhaps the oldest craft in the world. Primarily utilitarian, clay utensils have often ranked as some of the most beautiful objects of art.
Traditional folk pottery has always been a part of Indian life and ceremonies. From pre-historic times, there has been an abundance of beautifully fashioned utilitarian pottery Different varieties of pottery like red, black, buff and grayware were often painted with black and white pigments or decorated with geometrical incisions.
Domestic pottery comes in a bewildering profusion of attractive shapes and sizes.
The process of pottery - modelling and shaping of clay, drying it and firing it, is one of the most ancient crafts surviving today. Clay can be categorized as primary clays, which includes China clay, Bentonite and secondary clays, which include common clays, red clays, ball clays and fire clays. The potter throws the painstakingly kneaded clay into the centre of the wheel, rounding it off, then spins the wheel around with a stick. As the whirling gathers momentum, he begins to shape the clay into the required form. When finished he severs the shaped bit from the rest of the clay skillfully, with a string.
The firing is done in an improvised kiln, the quality and beauty not being affected. Intricate glaze is made from a mixed composition, fired to form a vitreous material with glazed surface, then coloured by different mineral substances. Pottery is generally classified as earthenware, stoneware and porcelain, in relation to the clay used and the firing temperatures.
Distinctive earthenware is produced in various parts of India. There is the Delhi blue pottery made from porcelain; the famous Jaipur hand-painted blue pottery noted for its delicate decoration painted with brush made of squirrel's hair; Alwar pottery noted for its paper thin shapes; Ikaner pottery is tinted with lac colours to which gold paint is added; Khurja pottery from Uttar Pradesh with its use of colours like orange, brown, and special light red, floral designs in sky blue; Rampur surahis or waterpots noted for their green-blue glazes and Chunar pottery noted for its brown slip, interspersed by a number of other tints; Kangra in Himachal rich in claywares mostly black or dark red; Khanapur in Belgaum noted for its thin variety of pottery with designs etched on the body; Vidi in Kutch abounds in white clay and noted for its soft white pottery; Saurashtra pottery for its likeness to sandalwood paste; Dal gate pottery from Kashmir where the glazes resemble the cracks of a batik surface; Goa earthenware with its deep rich red velvety surface; the highly artistic Karigari pottery from south Arcot with its original colours of green, yellow, brown and blue glazes, also used for making superbly shaped and coloured water jugs. Indian pottery true to nature in the directness and simplicity of its form and utility, has conformed not only to an aesthetic ideal but also to eloquent expression of the material.