Ufaq Fatima

Facing decline in demand, potters see their business dying steady death

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Photo/Ufaq Fatima

Srinagar, Apr 26: While the modern metal and ceramic utensils have replaced the traditional clay utensils in the kitchens of Kashmir long back, now those in pottery business are claiming that the pottery items are likely to disappear from the markets altogether.

Ali Muhammad Kumhar, 60, who has been associated with the clay pottery business since last 35 years, says that the clay utensils may go extinct from Kashmir as there are no buyers for the clay-ware anymore.

“I inherited this business from my father and initially it was doing very good, but today the same business is running in loss. People in Kashmir do not use the clay utensils in their homes anymore. They prefer much stronger metallic and plastic utensils over the fragile pottery utensils,” says Kumar.

While making clay utensils at his residence in Srinagar’s Ishber Nishat, Kumhar says that the raw material required for making earthenware is costly and the profit margin is very low.

“We get the raw material from hills that involve a lot of hard work. The raw material is required to be laboriously processed only then it can be put on the wheel in order to make desired shapes out of it. The job is very hectic and the dwindling demand does not suffice the cost and the labour that goes into it,” he says, adding that in order to sustain themselves, they have now shifting to making toys.

But then, Kumhar  also says that he has some customers who buy clay utensils. “Due to the health benefits of using clay utensils, some costumers buy them on the recommendations of their doctor,” says Kumhar.

Kumhar also said that he has purchased an electric pottery wheel to reduce physical exertion involved in doing work on the traditional wheel.

“The art of pottery making is a cumbersome process and requires a lot of effort. After shaping utensils, proper drying is required, this has to be followed by heating the utensils at a high temperature in a kiln in order to remove all the water from the clay. Due to its fragile properties, many utensils are damaged during this process,” explains Kumhar.

According to Kumhar, the pottery business cannot survive for long and people associated with this trade will have to engage themselves with some other business.

“Though clay pottery is our legacy, but I do not want my son to carry it further; I don’t want him to do a business which has no future,” says Kumhar.

However, at the same time, another potter believes that the revival of pottery business is possible if the government intervenes.

“The revival of pottery business is possible if the government provide us assistance to buy raw material and then also helps in marketing — this way we can sustain our business and can make some profit,” says the artisan.

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