I was privileged to visit a ceramicist near Bhandara village situated on the main highway to Kathmandu. This was a small, simply built workshop containing heaps of clay and freshly made vessels located between two rice fields.
At the rear of the workshop was a throwing wheel manufactured from a tyre; I am familiar with electric and kick wheels but had never seen a home made device such as this and was intrigued to discover how it would be used. It took me a while to communicate with the ceramicist due to my very limited Nepalese, consequently the most effective way of understanding was through hand gestures and demonstration.
He began by kneading the clay using the ‘rams head’ technique to remove the air from the clay prior to cleaning the base of his wheel. He proceeded to centre the clay on the wheel prior to inserting a stick inside a jig fitting and twisting it vigorously to spin the wheel thus enabling him to start to form the clay by hand.
The whole process needed to be completed before momentum was lost and the form was completed within two minutes. The ceramicist worked methodically, skilfully and without wasting time or material ( indeed this was not dissimilar to the working method of the blacksmith I visited previously). The pots were functional as regards shape with a pleasing level of ‘pinched’ decoration; however I was intrigued by the inventive and original manner of fashioning a potters wheel from a tyre and the physical process of ‘making’. The level of self reliance as regards accessing locally sourced heaps of clay and hand fashioned tools as opposed to brought in sacks of clay and manufactured tools was a particularly satisfying and economically efficient and honest method of working which held considerable appeal to me.
The ceramicist allowed me to use his wheel and I was struck by the difference between the process of working with an electric wheel where one could exercise a degree of control as regards the speed of revolution. In this method the pace of the wheel is predetermined and the potter is obliged to work within the restrictions of the set speed and the time taken for the wheel to stop revolving thus offering a real challenge to complete the form in time. It was a great way to practice not over handling the clay and to not be too precious as regards the individual vessel being manufactured. A valuable lesson learnt as regards producing successful items within restrictions of materials, tools and external powers sources e.g electricity.