Friday, 5 February 2016

Rajasthani crafts - carpets and blue pottery

Another day, another 'factory'. 

First the collective in Amber (Amer) where they specialise in carpets and block printing. The word factory is used in its loosest sense, often meaning a room where everyone works on the floor in what we would think of as dreadful conditions. Much of the work is done at home because this allows workers to remain in their community rather than move to a city, and the collective at least ensures workers get a fair price for their work. The looms here were for demonstration but once knotted at home the finishing process was carried out here.

The guide told us that each family has its own traditional 'signature' design, and we are beginning to realise that this is true of so many things. The shop keepers in Delhi proudly displayed photos of their ancestors who traded from the same shop selling the same thing as proof of quality, and whole villages are dedicated to one trade - scrap iron, recycling tyres, quarrying etc.

Anyway, back to the carpets: 

Wool arrives in these big sacks and is hanked up by women using vertical swifts

These carpets are hand-knotted rather than woven, with each thread secured around two warp threads in a figure-of-eight 

before being cut short with the knife

They were happy to let us have a go (for the usual tip) so some poor tourist will end up with our ropey knots in their carpet.

If they are making an intricate pattern it is mapped out on a grid, much like counted cross stitch.

Once complete the carpets are clipped to even up the surface and brushed to remove loose fibres. 

Then the backs are burnt to remove loose fibres and make them rough (non-slip) 

before they are scrubbed to within an inch of their life with soap and these paddles. Apparently the paddles help the fibres lie in one direction so they have a sheen and prevent the wool fibres from felting.

And this is the stunning result, from traditional designs to contemporary ones, wool and beautiful silk. All of these town 'factories' have disproportionately large basements where the very well rehearsed hard sell begins.

Did we succumb? I'm afraid to say we did, but we drove a hard bargain and these guys were very friendly, the helpers (who are usually just there to get out the goods) chatting about their hobbies in broken English (kite flying competitions) and interested in what we did and all things English. The manager said they are hoping to be able to come over for a trade show soon.

On to the Blue Pottery factory - just a yard with several workers in it in the village of Sanganer south of Jaipur. This is the same place that they were block printing bed linen in the earlier post. They did of course have the obligatory basement showing off their 'collection' but no real hard sell.

The pots are made from a mix of clay with quartz, glass and other minerals for hardness. This is presses into a mould and left to dry in the sun before having a coating of slip applied.

These guys are decorating the pots with traditional designs - first the outline is painted with a fine brush, and then the colours are filled in.

We were allowed to have a try, much to the amusement of the workers. The squirrel hair brush has a lot of bounce, and once you get used to how much paint to put on the brush it is possible to vary the thickness of the lines with pressure, making them look elegant.

Once all the decoration is complete the pieces are kiln fired. 

Due to the vagaries of this process a large percentage of the pieces don't come out intact., and it is not possible to predict which ones will be OK.

Not all of the kiln-broken pieces end up on the scrap-heap like this little cow -

some are destined for greater things.

And to try out a new range of tiles what better place than the loo? This must be the poshest washroom in Jaipur!

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