Nov 02, 2011
Now this is the place I really want to be, I walk from Braktapur but have to concede after a couple of hours that I can't find the place I’m looking for! I have a number for Thimi Ceramics and I stop and ask the man at a bottle shop (because it’s at a main junction) and they guys are very helpful, with one of them calling the number for me, and before I know it I’m getting picked up on a motorbike by someone from the Thimi Ceramics place, I’m impressed. While I was waiting on him I must have looked really suspect sitting outside a bottle shop and was getting disapproving looks from the women and giggles from local girls… it was funny. So Laxba arrived and took me up to Thimi Ceramics, in through the big double gates and I’m really impressive, this is a proper working pottery, it’s a real story of the local guy which has done good! I am invited in for tea and I explain to Laxba my interest in pottery and why I have come to seek them out, although I would love to get my hands on some clay I really am here to observe. Laxba introduces me to his brother Santa who is the older brother and an extremely talented man, and the real drive behind this whole operation. Santa explains that their cast is potters ‘Kumhar’ and from even the age of five he spent all day wedging clay with his feet! The men in the family do all the throwing while the women seem to do more decorative work, they are brought up with pottery in their blood, and they learn all the techniques from their father, and their father’s father and is passed on through the generations. Santa explained to me that their family lived in Potters Square in Thimi and talked me through his learning which involved studying abroad learning various glaze processes, using electric equipment and many new skills he has brought back not only to Thimi’s Potters Square but he’s brought back to Nepal and has helped so many people.
Not only do I get a full tour of the pottery from Santa, he then takes me a tour of the Thimi’s Potters Square and the surrounding village. Firstly Thimi Ceramics, he shows me round the whole place, meeting staff and seeing them at work, a lot of the clay is actually imported from India which he has a huge store outside, then there’s a whole shed dedicated to the clay which has a pug mill etc. in it before showing me through to the potters. There are six electric wheels and everyone is making a different object for a big order they are working on at the moment. They are very skilled potters that he employs some coming from far afield. I watch different textures being applied and the finishing processes before being shown through to the kiln shed.
Here they are applying slip before the bisque firing, Santa has a massive room size kiln which someone man’s constantly checking the temperature and behind smaller kilns. There are shelves and shelves of bisque fired work and a massive stack of glazed finished works, they are really lovely pieces. Santa explains that he lives here with his brother and their families, the ground floor is the working area (i.e. pottery), 1st floor is the sleeping area, 2nd floor is an open living areas and the top floor is the kitchen, and is the same in the village. On the 2nd floor the whole living area is shelved and there are wall to wall mugs on one wall, on another wall it’s the same but plates, dishes etc, and the 3rd wall is jugs, teapots etc.etc. I’m delighted, I’ve never seen anything like it! They do all their packing and shipping from here and everyone helps, it really is a family affair.
Next Santa takes me down to Potters Square and I can’t believe what I’m seeing! The whole village work in the pottery industry, every space is filled with pots with all the traditional methods passed on from father to son to keep this art alive. I spend hours with Santa taking me from house to house meeting the villagers who delight by showing me their methods and techniques, and by the time I leave I am buzzing, I’m dying to write down everything I’ve learned so I don’t forget. Many of the wheels here are made either out of old lorry tyres, weighted down with cement and spun with a stick, but there are a few kick wheels and even pug mills which Santa has donated. Every household has their process with the man throwing pots, the women and children doing the decorative or the wedging etc. on the ground floor while the upstairs is sleeping, then next floor cooking, the whole village is the same. The kilns are made out in the street with each family’s kiln holding around 1000 pots. They are packed with straw, then covered in ash (to insulate) and then fired up – each one takes around 4 days, one to prepare, two for firing and one to cool off. All in all I have learned so much and have so many memories of this place, it’s been a real inspiration and a highlight of my trip.
On the way back, Santa shows me the house he was brought up in which the family still owns, only now he houses some of his workforce that come from further afield in. When we get back to Thimi he shows me his show room which is on the way in which has an incredible amount of goods in it, I love the work they do here, and I particularly love the glazes and effects they use. This is what I would love to be doing, I’m just really hyped up by the time I leave. Before I go though Santa has arranged for me to go out to Lamahi, way out the west of Nepal for a few days. I’m to stay with friends of his, and one of the son’s Arun will show me several local pottery villages so I can learn and absorb the culture and traditions and I can’t wait! We arrange it for the following Friday and I’m really looking forward to it.