Feats of clay Print E-mail
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Feats of clay
The prepation process
Baking in the kiln

The actual process of preparing the clay has barely changed. The clay must first be carefully chosen and mixed. Bahrain's potters use a mixture of one part yellow clay, or asfar, and three parts red clay (ahmar).

"Using only yellow clay will result in pots of poor quality, while using only red clay will make the pots too heavy," says Jaffer.

Back in the old days, they would use a donkey cart to transport the clay from the wadis to the factory - a journey that would take up to an hour-and-a-half. Today, the family uses a six-wheel truck that takes them just 10 minutes.

The clay is left immersed in a large outdoor trough for two days, to sift out small stones or other objects, then it would be filtered. After that, it is left to dry completely - three to four days in the summer, a week or more in the winter.

The clay is then moulded, first by stomping all over it with bare feet, then by hand, thus eliminating all the air bubbles in the mixture.

Finally, the clay is ready for the wheel.

The potter's wheel is as rudimentary a device as you can imagine - little having changed over the past hundreds of years. It consists of two horizontal circular plates, spaced apart and held together by a vertical stake driven through their centres and into the ground.

The potter uses his feet to spin the bottom, large wheel, which generates enough torque for him to be able to mould the clay on the upper wheel. It is fascinating to watch a master potter at work, as he shapes the clay with his hands.

With the wheel spinning furiously, he repeatedly moistens his hands as he encourages the lumpen clay with softly contoured palms, gently pushing up, goading, until there appears almost magically before your eyes an object of pure beauty.

On average it takes about five minutes to make a medium size piece, larger pieces can take several hours and may even need two people, one to turn the wheel, the other to shape the pot.

The freshly-made pots are left to dry in the shade for two days. Drying in the sun is avoided as the pots could develop cracks.