This Kashmiri youth has big dreams for glazed pottery from the valley

By Qiesar Baba

Srinagar: A Kashmiri commerce graduate has big dreams for the pottery industry in the Kashmir Valley. He is making every effort to give it a new lease of life and bring it at par with modern times so that Kashmiri hand-made pottery can rival the machine-manufactured Chinese and American ones giving them a run for their money.
Mohammad Umar Kumar, the 26-year-old graduate claims his hand-made glazed pots made of clay are hygienic as compared to the machine-made items from China and America.

Umar believes that his glazed pottery utensils made at his Nishat unit are better than the items made by China and America that are sold in the market.
Speaking to UNI about his endeavor to revolutionize the craft he said: “ I searched everything on YouTube about the modern machine made pottery items of China and America and found Kashmiri items made by pure clay and baked in a fire kiln are more efficient and hygienic for daily use”.
Kumar’s pottery items have impressed the Department of Handicrafts and Handloom, Kashmir, who have appointed him as contractual teacher to teach his art to seven other youth under the central-sponsored “Karkhana Scheme” so that this traditional craft gets a new boost and lease of life.

The people who were associated with the pottery business in Kashmir had almost given up on the craft. These particular artisans have nearly disappeared from the valley because there has been no takers from the present society with high-profile living standard.
Kumar is presently experimenting with blue-glazed clay pots which he believes is item of choice among customers who throng the shop at Hazratbal in Srinagar.

“I am presently producing glazed pots in Red, Green and Black colors for which I am using waste glass panes, used battery cells and a metal for color combination besides clay prepared with an unique technique while baking in the fire kiln,” Kumar said.
He said he spends at least Rs 1,200 to purchase waste raw material to conduct the experiment in order to produce a different color and is never sure that the result would be positive.
“After completing my BCom I couldn’t get the job, and decided to revive my traditional business which my forefathers were doing — making of clay pots but with a different technique.
“I am doing it now for the past two years very successfully and earning handsomely,” Kumar said.
He said that he came to know about a professional craftsman, an 80-year-old Gulzar Ahamd Kumar who was making glazed pots in Khanyar area in downtown Srinagar for many years, and acquired all details from him about the art.
“Gulzar provided me with all details, about coloring, shading and designing of glazed pots,” Kumar said and added “he became my teacher and visited my home at times as and when I needed until I learned every aspect of the art”.

“Gulzar provided me with all details, about coloring, shading and designing of glazed pots,” Kumar said and added “he became my teacher and visited my home at times as and when I needed until I learned every aspect of the art”.

“The earthen utensils and pots available in the markets are given colors by hand or machine with a normal paint, but my pots inherent colors after being baked in a fire kiln with my own technique and waste material.”

“I searched the internet to know how glazed items are made in America with different colors, they displayed their items but not showing how these are made,” Kumar said and added “I want to turn pottery into a modern and unique art, for which I need to know the technology being used in the US, whether they are also making items of clay in machines or by hand and what sort of material they use to give glazing colors to pottery items”, Kumar said.

“My glazed pottery pots are very cheap and it takes about Rs 70 to Rs 80 to make a pot. “The same pot of American make would cost about Rs 500,” he said.

Kumar has put on display a number of his creations on the potter’s wheel, including glazed clay rice bowls, flower pots, jugs, tiles outside his unit at Nishat.

China has been making all pots by machines and the technology is available on YouTube. But the hygiene and standard could not be ascertained, he said.

He urged the youth of the valley to use their talent and see for themselves what heights they can achieve. “Don’t waste time waiting for the job before long it would be too late. Seize the day and reinvent what your forefathers once excelled in,” Kumar said.

The art of pottery had almost vanished from Kashmiri society, but I will make all efforts to revive the craft. Doctors are even suggesting their patients to use earthen pots for daily use which are highly hygienic and beneficial for good health, Kumar claimed.

When asked would it be beneficial for the art of pottery to get the recognition it deserves especially after Srinagar was declared as a creative city by the UNESCO, Kumar said: “Aabsolutely, this profession would get its space but people should be aware of it.

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