As part of our travels back to Jaipur we spent some time wandering through the markets with our photographer, Naveli Choyal, and spoke to some of the local artisans about their craft. Here we spoke to Gopal Saini, a Jaipur Blue Pottery craftsman, all about his craft and the development of these designs throughout the years.
Can you tell us about the history of Blue Pottery?
In 1963 Padmshri Kripal Singh Shekhawat Sahib and Maharani Gaytri Devi, along with central minister Kamla Devi Chattopadhyay, bought this art form back to life. Today, all around the world Jaipur is famous for its Blue Pottery and for the craft that goes into making it.
Where did you learn your craft and start your own studio?
I used to go to Jaipur for my PhD research and saw this art being practiced when I visited, inspired by this I established my own studio in 1993.
Can you tell us a bit about the characters, plants, and flowers featured within the design and their meaning to the culture in Jaipur?
I have changed and experimented with designs and shapes, over the traditional art in Blue Pottery, that have not been used before. I’ve added cutting work, embossing work, and miniature work to my collection. In the past, geometrical and floral patterns weren’t very fine and were created in limited shapes. In my work, I have expanded the patterns and used new flowers and vines, as well as using miniature work.
Starting out we use those ornamental patterns and geometrical styles, and the arches and designs we see in various monuments, forts, and palaces. We use the arches as borders and then we decorate it from there with budding vines and flowers, created in a style similar to a serpent, where no one knows where it ends or begins – all of these new ways of working are what we have tried to incorporate into our Blue Pottery.
Can you talk through the natural materials used, and the dying/mixing process used to create Blue Pottery?
Jaipur’s Blue Pottery is the only one based on Silica or Quartz powder. Though it lacks elasticity, we are able to give it different shapes and forms, making different types of vases, plates, bowls, and big sets of tiles. This is the hallmark of the artist’s craft. When it comes to colours, we use metal oxides like cobalt oxide for dark blue and copper oxide for turquoise blue. The actual name ‘Blue Pottery’ is because of these two colours. Over time other colours also came into use, like green from chromium oxide, yellow from tin oxide, and brown from chrome oxide. Using these different metal oxides, we have tried and will continue to create different patterns.
Is there any recognisable architecture in Jaipur that features Blue Pottery tiles?
Minaret in ‘Gangauri Bazar’ near ‘Chhoti Chaupad’ features Blue Pottery, where the King used to sit and watch the fair. This whole building was decorated with Blue Pottery tiles, including the arches, pillars, and balconies. In Maharaja’s Palace, you will see utensils that feature Blue Pottery too.
In larger restaurants, hotels, big business houses, and in the homes of art lovers you will find interiors full of Blue Pottery.
How has the design changed over time?
Several students from various art schools come to visit us and show us their projects, and contemporary art designs; when they add their final touch to the pottery it is beautiful. Also, several customers have visited us with their own designs. After seeing all this we’ve realised that we can make a big change by combining these different styles. We started out by trying these new designs and showing them to our customers. If the customers like it, we include these new designs in our range. We keep the traditional ones too, because this art form is traditional, and we don’t want to lose that. That’s why through the ideas given by students, customers, and art lovers we can keep this traditional craft alive while including new designs too.
How has Blue Pottery started to get international recognition?
On an international level when I represented the government of India, I realised just how many people love Jaipur’s Blue Pottery. Not only in India but internationally, it’s appreciated for its colours and craft. With the help of the government, we registered a patent for Blue Pottery in 2009.
Tourists like this as a traditional art form whereas in India it is liked for its contemporary nature mainly for interiors. Now this pottery has an identity of its own all over the world.