Pottery Technology

 Among the 10 major artisanal groups in India, potters comprise the fourth largest but second poorest group with an estimated 10 lakh people directly or indirectly involved in this vocation. Despite the existence of a stable and consistent demand for a narrow range of pottery-ware, these traditional potters are in a deep crisis due to severe competition from industrial products like plastic and aluminium goods. They are unable to meet this challenge since there has been drastic depletion of raw materials as suitable clay becomes more and more scarce while there is no innovation or upgradation of their skills and technologies. Attempts to alleviate their lot through providing technological inputs remained largely unsuccessful since merely mechanizing some processes may lead to increased productivity but the shrinking market remains a bottleneck.


The New Technology Package


 In order to resolve this problem, the Dept. of Science and Technology supported a countrywide study of production practices of potters and conducted in depth R&D work with the help of CGCRI and several VOs. This led to the evolution of a technology package which successfully resolved the problems of poor quality and depleting white clay resources by developing a protocol of admixtures for red-clay and appropriately scaled machinery for clay processing. As a result, the potter can now utilize the commonly found red-clay for making excellent quality glazed-ware obviating the dependence on costly white clay. Moreover, with the introduction of this new technology, the product range of the potter expands and thus the dying trade can be rejuvenated. The salient features of this technology package are:-


¨   Suitable treatment, processing and admixture techniques for upgradation of the quality of common or red-clay.

¨   Matching non-toxic glazes.

¨   Appropriately scaled machinery for use by potter groups.

¨   New type kilns for fuel efficiency and reduction of breakage.

¨   Innovative product range including sanitary- and table-ware, decorative items and constructing material.

¨   Low cost bone ash preparation for bone china.

¨   A system-design incorporation clusters of potters, using the technology package, with linkages with S&T institutions and producing the innovative product range with suitable marketing strategy.

¨   Date base on diverse clay types, quality upgradation protocols, technical and economic features of clay-based artisanal production and social dimensions of artisanal pottery.



 This newly developed technology package has the following advantages :

Ø     Locally available red-clay can be used.

Ø     Quality of the products is better.

Ø     Drudgery is reduced.

Ø     Wider range of products can be made including tableware and sanitary-ware.

Ø     Breakage and wastage is reduced.

Ø     Fuel efficiency is maintained.


 All these advantages lead to an augmentation of the incomes of impoverished potters and even generation of employment while at the same time reducing drudgery. On the other hand, the product is cheap, durable and aesthetically suitable.


Process Details.

a) Improved Clay Quality.  Traditionally, potters use red-clay which cannot be fired beyond 850 deg C, thus preventing the use of appropriate glazes. In the new technology package, the properties of locally available clays are enhanced by addition of suitable admixtures like chin-clay, quartz, feldspar etc. The proportion of admixtures depends on the properties of the local clay which have to be determined through physico-chemical tests. With the help of CGCRI a typology for different types of clays from different geo-climatic zones is being prepared in order to standardize the admixture proportions. Once the quality of the clay is upgraded, it can be fired at temperatures upto 1100 deg C.


b) Machines for Clay Processing.  In order to further improve the quality of the clay and reduce the drudgery, some suitably de-scaled machines are introduced. These are : the ball-mill and the pug-mill which homogenize the clay body and render it suitable for forming. These machines are suitable for small operations and they can be run on single-phase power supply or even 5kw DG. Sets.


c) New Forming Techniques.  In order that the potter may produce a diversified range of items, new machinery and techniques and also introduced for better forming (shaping) of the clay. These include a mechanized potter’s wheel and the jigger-jolly. Items like tableware can be produced at much higher rates through the use of these new adapted machines. For making tiles a screw press is used while slip-casting techniques are introduced for fine products.


d) Matching Glaze Preparation.  Available non-toxic glazes are matched to the clay body and used for creating opaque and transparent glazed fishes for the products. These glazes are made by grinding the frit (crystals) in the small balmill/pot-mill, applying it to the  biscuit-fired product and then firing it again at higher temperatures.


e) Improved Kiln.  A fuel-efficient down-draft kiln, fired with wood is part of the package. This kiln can attain temperatures upto 1200 deg C which are required for the new product range.



System Design

The nodal centre is set up at a location which is easily accessible for a cluster of 5-10 potters’ families. The Centre serves as a common facility and contains most of the functions described above. Due to the new technology package and economies of scale, productivity is substantially increased. A centralized marketing network is also coordinated through the Nodal Centre. At a later stage, some of the functions can be decentralized. For example, clay processing, forming and low-temperatures firing (upto the ‘biscuit’ stage)  can be done at satellite units while the final firing can be undertaken at the Nodal level.


Conditions for Applicability

Several conditions need to be kept in mind before undertaking the introduction of this technology in any field area. These are :-

·  Red-clay should be available in substantial quantity in the vicinity.

· There should sufficient concentration of potters in the area.

· A reasonable market-potential for diversified pottery-ware should exist nearby.

· Electricity should be available as also running water.


Land and Infrastructure

 A minimum of 500-750 sq. yards of land should be available with the VO. This will be used to build pits, store clay and other materials, and accommodate the down-draft kiln which has a 30 feet chimney. A Workshed of about 1200 sq. ft. covered area will be required where all operations will be housed. Water and electricity should be available. The location should be such as to be easily accessible to potters and preferably connected by motorable road. It would be advisable to locate the unit at a medium level cluster of potters, which would naturally be near clay deposit.

Equipment/Machinery and its Costs:

The following equipment/machinery will be needed. Costs are only illustrative – they will vary from place to place – and with time.


Items                                     Nos.                                             Cost(in Rs.)


Ball-Mill (2’ x 2.5’)                      1                                              12,000

Ball-Mill (1’ x 1.5’) for glaze         1                                                6,500

Motorized Potter Wheel               1                                                5,000

Hand-operated Potters’ Wheel     1                                                   500

Screw-press for tiles (HFP4)        1                                                8,500

Baby Pug Mill                             1                                              11,500

Universal Jigger Jolly                  1                                              10,500

Painter’s Wheel                          2                                                1,000

Disintegrator (1.8”)                    1                                                6,500

DD Kiln (6’ x x’)                       1                                              75,000

Motor (5 hp), Shft. And

Electrical accessories                  1 set                                         15,000

Dies etc.                                                                                      6,000

Total                                                                                     1,58,000


Suggested Outline for a Typical Project


 It bears emphasis that the project can only be formulated on the basis of thorough Field Investigations which should be carried out in consultation with the Resource Agency. The implementation of the Project also needs to be done only with constant back up by Resource Agency. CAPART guidelines should be followed while finalizing the Proposal.



a)  To establish a Nodal facility incorporating the new technology package at a suitable site in the field area serving network of 8-10 potters.

b)  To train the selected potters in the various aspects of the new technology package.

c)  To supervise trial production at the Nodal Unit and provide all necessary technical and managerial backup for the same.

d)  To establish links with S&T Institutions and Resource Agencies for providing expert assistance.

e)  To identify the diversified new product range and establish its marketing linkages.

f)  Thus, to achieve viable and sustainable production levels at the unit.

g) And thereby, to augment the incomes of traditional potters through the introduction of a new technology package for production of red-clay pottery-ware while making available this cheap yet durable product range in the local market.



 Prior to the initiation of the Project, a thorough Field Investigation must be carried out. Networking with potters of the field area should exist and be further strengthened for the Project.


 Red-clay samples from deposites in the field area are sent for analysis. Admixtures are made on the basis of the results thereof. As suitably located site for the Nodal Unit is identified and the infrastructure established. Required equipment and machinery is also acquired.


 The Core Team for the Project is selected and imparted intensive training at a Resource Agency and at CGCRI. Field level training is conducted by this team at the Nodal Unit, with the help of experts. The trained potters initiate trial production at the Unit. Once the admixtures, body forming and product range is optimized, full scale production is initiated. During this period necessary inputs from S&T experts and the coordinating agency have to be taken. It is essential that the core team should include at least one qualified and/or experienced pottery expert. Developing market linkages and adapting the product profile to the demands in the local market are areas of activity that require continuous attention during this period.


Schedule of Activities

The duration of the project is envisaged for a period of two years. The schedule of the activities are as follows:-


Activity                                                            Months from start


Identification of the site

Identification of the core team

Ordering equipment

Clay sent for testing

Networking of the potters                                    3 months


Plant erection / commissioning

Institutional training of the core team                   6 months


Field level training

Market investigation

Product/process finalization                                 9 months


Trial production-cum-marketing

User/producer feedback

Monitoring and modifications where necessary      15 months


Production and marketing                                   21 months


Liability/replicability assessment                          24 months




 The details of the budget for the project on pottery are as given below. These are broad guidelines and variations may occur, spending on local factors.



1.  Salaries


§        Project Coordinator (1)  Rs. 2500 x 24 months        Rs. 60,000

§        Master Artisans (2)        Rs. 2000 x 18 months        Rs. 72,000

§        Artisans (2)                   Rs. 1500 x 18 months        Rs. 54,000


Sub total                      Rs. 1,86,000


2.  Workshed  1500 sq. ft. @ Rs. 150 /sw. ft.             2,25,000


3.  Equipment and machinery                                1,50,000


4.  Installation                                                          25,000


5.  Materials and supplies                                         50,000


6.      Training

¨      Institutional                                                    Rs. 30,000

¨      Field level training                                          Rs. 10,000

¨      Technical back up                                           Rs. 20,000


Sub Total                                            Rs. 60,000

7.      Travel

¨      Institutional and other R&D institutions Rs. 45,000

¨      Resource persons                                      Rs. 25,000

¨      Local travel                                               Rs. 25,000


Sub Total                                 Rs. 95,000


8.  Overheads @ 10% of the above total                          77,100


                                                            Total                Rs. 8,68,100


Resource Agencies


1)         Centre for Technology and Development,

            D-158, Lower Ground Floor,



2)         Society for Technology and Development

Vill. Malori, PO Tikkar,

Mandi (HP)

3)         Gramodaya Sangh


Distt. Chandrapur


4)         Centre for Social Work Research

HG Basak Road, Melarmath,

Agartala, West Tripura

5)         Madhya Pradesh Vigyan Sabha (MPVS)

6A, Civil Lines,

Professors Colony, Bhopal

Madhya Pradesh

6)         Mitraniketan