Case Study

Success Stories
Jaipur Blue Pottery Cluster: Miles covered, Miles to go . .
Blue Pottery: Persian Origin, Jaipur’s Patronization :
Blue Pottery of Jaipur and its surrounding villages is unique in primarily being a ceramic body made of quartz, unlike other potteries, which are made of clay. The completely hand-painted motifs add to its exclusivity. These also reflect the pottery’s Persian origin and the amalgamation of the original designs with the local ethnic flavour, thanks to the creativity of the artisans. The resemblance of the traditional pieces of Jaipur Blue Pottery with Iznik Pottery of China (adherence to White and Turquoise Blue colour and the rounded shapes of the bottles and vases) and extensive use of Blue Pottery tiles in mosques of Arabia, Iran and Iraq, tell about the long journey undertaken by this craft to finally settle down in Jaipur due to royal patronage in early 19th century and later modern revival by Padamshri Kripal Singh. In the present times, similar looking potteries may be seen in various parts of Asia and Europe but none of them is a ceramic body unlike the Jaipur Blue Pottery.
RUDA’s intervention approach: Study - Intervene - Spread :
RUDA (Rural Non Farm Development Agency) was established in 1995 with a mandate to develop employment opportunities in rural areas in three identified Sub-Sectorss, wool, leather and minor minerals. Within Minor Minerals sub sector, rechristened as Stone-Ceramic-Pottery (SCP), the famous Jaipur Blue Pottery arrested immediate attention, owing to its latent potential, unique attributes and its pitiable state. However, at the outset itself formulation of a strategy for intervention required a detailed analysis of the craft and this was achieved with the help of IIFM (Indian Institute of Forest Management) students specializing in micro enterprise development. This study outlined the difficulties being faced by the craft, its technological, design and other impediments, the exploitation of the artisans, the lack of coordination amongst the unit holders, threats for the pottery in future etc.
The technological bottlenecks were ominous and assessing these as the first area of intervention, to start with, a detailed technical analysis of the craft was commissioned to the CGCRI (Central Glass & Ceramic Research Institute, Ahmedabad). The study revealed that the craft suffered from the following:
  • Primitive production technology involving lot of human drudgery
  • Inefficient up-draught kiln with uneven distribution and lack of control of firing temperatures, very high fuel consumption and large rejection of products
  • Presence of lead in the dough, engobe as well as the glaze
  • Lead-based glaze offering a very short maturing range of temperature further leading to rejection of articles after firing
  • Porous and fragile nature of the products
The technological problems were being faced by all the units making Blue Pottery. However, the choice of the place for initiating any intervention was of utmost importance, since this would have decided the pace and direction of all future interventions. The mandate of attention to rural areas gave the clue and Kotjewar was zeroed upon looking to the remoteness of the village, the comparatively lesser number and poorer condition of the artisans and their enthusiastic response during the two studies. The idea was to start at a micro level with macro level objectives, believing that a micro level would provide manageable scale of interventions whose successes could be duplicated later on by demonstrating the same at a larger level. Furthermore, the conditions of the village and the artisans posed a challenge that if something could be done for them, it could mean greater success in other places.
Long - term plans couldn’t materialise :
The Artisan Trust of U.K. had been approached, in the meanwhile, for nurturing a long term partnership along with a funding support from DFID, Govt. of U.K. The development of the Blue Pottery and other crafts in leather and wool was envisaged through this project. Therefore, two visits were made by the team during 1998 and besides the identification of the various problems of Blue Pottery it culminated in the development of two energy efficient down-draught kilns with the help of Mr. David Frith & Joe Finch of Development Alternatives. These experts were also able to provide a plethora of new design concepts which were brought into production with the help of Mr. Sasi Gopal of IICD (Indian Institute of Craft & Design) and other young designers from NID (National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad). The long term project could not materialise due to the inability of DFID for further funding.
Activity leads to organising . . .& more results . . .:
Nevertheless, the positive outcome of the whole effort was the formation of a Self Help Group of the artisans at Kotjewar. The group was given the designs, was taken to various marketing events and thereby brought out of the clutches of an exporter of Jaipur, who was oblivious of the pilled up inventories in the artisans’ households due to the export rejects. The design development projects lead to a new design range, further augmented by a new product range consisting of tiles, co-ordinated sets for bathroom, table-top accessories, doorknobs, tea coasters, pen stands, Incense-stick stands, etc. apart from new shapes sizes, motifs and colours in the existing range of flower pots and decorative bowls. The participation in fairs, exhibitions and other marketing events lead to a continuous interaction with bulk buyers and their feedback helped in making these products in-line with the market demands.
Technological intervention imperative . . .:
CGCRI was further approached for developing a lead-free Blue Pottery and improve its strength to make it non-porous. This had become important by now since the pottery, as per the trends observed from the market, there was a continuous decline in the exports of Blue Pottery, the number of artisans was getting reduced and the pottery was on the verge of being banned in Europe due to the leaching of lead in the products. The directive to CGCRI was however:
  • Not to disturb the traditionalism of the technique,
  • Not to introduce such raw materials that may not be easily available locally
By this time, the success of the new designs made by the artisans of Kotjewar in the marketing events that RUDA was able to generate for them, had created a lot of interest in other villages too. Thus, during the study by CGCRI and the discussions for developing the new technology they were more forthcoming than before.
The Technology :
The technology was developed by CGCRI by experimentation not confined to their laboratory alone but with active discussions with the artisans, drawing from their experience and reservations about various ideas. The new technology has not only removed the lead from the pottery it has also made it up to four times stronger than the traditional one. Due to the new technology, the problem of blackening of the glaze has been completely removed. All this has been achieved without any change in the technique and the use of easily available raw materials. The vistas of utilitarian tableware have been laid open for Blue Pottery.
Dissemination at doorsteps, discussion with all . . .:
The technology was developed and was launched publicly in a workshop where all the Blue Pottery manufacturers, of any place or size, were invited. The document outlining the process and the ingredients of the new technology was made available at nominal rates to all those manufacturing units who showed interest. But it was also decided that the technology needs to be disseminated in the villages so that its testing and slight modification wherever required could be effected with the on-site help of the CGCRI scientists. Even though it may have been a new experience for the CGCRI team, they made all the efforts to make the artisans understand, at their door steps, the nuances of the new technology.
The dissemination also resulted in the formation of another Self Help Group in Mehla. A lot of enthusiasm was shown by one manufacturer of Mohana village who was then supported to train a group of women of his village in making Blue Pottery and thereafter work as sub contractors to him. The deliberations at the series of workshops organised for discussing the problems during dissemination and the answers for them also led to a better coordination and candid exchange of information amongst the large scale manufacturers, the artisans, raw material suppliers, testing laboratories, exporters and technical and design consultants. The coordination between the large manufacturers and the artisan groups has been facilitated by RUDA. An example is the preparation of kiln furniture for the Kotjewar Group by a ceramics factory based in Jaipur, even though they normally do not take such orders. Similarly, the newly identified raw material supplier provides a money-back guarantee on the quality of the material purchased from him. The colour manufacturing company has made provisions of consistent supply through a newly appointed agent.
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