The Persian Art of blue pottery came to Jaipur from Persia and Afghanistan via Mughal Courts.The blue pottery is glazed and low-fired. Some of this pottery is semi-transparent and mostly decorated with animal and bird motifs. Being fired at very low temperature makes them fragile.
The dough is prepared by mixing 6 ingredients: quartz stone powder, powdered glass, Katira Gond powder, Multaani Mitti, and Saaji, and water. The dough must then rest for 8-10 hours. A small amount of dough is rolled and cut into equal parts. A portion is put into the mould and shaken slightly. A mixture of bajri (stones) and raakh (burnt wood dust) is put in the mould and lightly pressed. The mould is turned upside down and removed and the dough is left to dry in this shape for 1-2 days. The raakh and bajri mix is removed with the help of a locally made husk broom.
The form is rubbed on the base stone to even out the edges. If the craft person is making a vessel, then a base is made on a potter’s wheel and added to the form. It is left to dry for another 1-2 days. Next, the form is rubbed with a mixture of dough and water 2-3 times. After it dries it is rubbed with sandpaper. The form is then dipped into a mixture of quartz powder, powdered glass, maida, and water and left to dry. A solution of cobalt oxide and edible gum is used to make the design while the form sits on the potter’s wheel. Turning the wheel while applying the brush tip allows for smooth rings to be painted. Other designs are made using various brushes and brush strokes. Once the design is complete, various metal oxides are applied to create color. The form is again left to dry. A mixture of glaze is prepared with powdered glass, suhaaga (borax), zinc oxide, potassium nitrate, and boric acid and heated in the kiln until it melts. Upon cooling the mixture is ground into a powder and mixed with water and maida. The solution is coated onto the form.
Finally, the forms are fired in the kiln for 4-5 hours, making sure not to touch other objects in the kiln or they will turn black. All except 80 percent of the quartz melts away. The form is cooled for three days. It takes 10-12 days for one piece of pottery to be completed.
The use of blue glaze on pottery is an imported technique, first developed by Mongol artisans who combined Chinese glazing technology with Persian decorative arts. This technique traveled east to India with early Turkic conquests in the 14th century. During its infancy, it was used to make tiles to decorate mosques, tombs and palaces in Central Asia. Later, following their conquests and arrival in India, the Mughals began using them in India. Gradually the blue glaze technique grew beyond an architectural accessory to Indian potters.From there, the technique traveled to the plains of Delhi and in the 17th century went to Jaipur.
Other accounts of the craft state that blue pottery came to Jaipur in the early 19th century under the ruler Sawai Ram Singh II(1835 – 1880).The Jaipur king had sent local artisans to Delhi to be trained in the craft. Some specimens of older ceramic work can be seen in the Rambagh Palace, where the fountains are lined with blue tiles.
However, by the 1950s, blue pottery had all but vanished from Jaipur, when it was re-introduced through the efforts of the muralist and painter Kripal Singh Shekhawat,with the support of patrons such as Kamladevi Chattopadhaya and Rajmata Gayatri Devi. Today, blue pottery is an industry that provides livelihood to many people in Jaipur. The traditional designs have been adapted, and now, apart from the usual urns, jars, pots and vases, you can find tea sets, cups and saucers, plates and glasses, jugs, ashtrays and napkin rings.