History of Pottery
In Nepal, terracotta in large quantities is made in three main areas, where there is good clay and good demand: Thimi and Bhaktapur near Kathmandu, Deokhuri district in southwest Nepal, and Janakpur area in southeast Nepal. Additionally, some hill villages have small local production, or Thimi potters will go there and produce for a few months every year. Marketing has also changed in the past twenty years. Pottery used to be exchanged for rice, but this is no longer common, as cash economy has replaced barter. Potters used to hand carry all their wares to market, but now send them by bus or truck to distributors and retailers. Glazed ceramics were unknown in Nepal, except for what came from China and India. Until 1960 or so, terracotta pots for cooking were produced in large quantities, but stopped after aluminum entered the market. Production of water jars, beer and alcohol-distilling pots, rice storage pots, clothes washing basins, etc. continues, but their quantity is decreasing as plastic and other storage container are more and more widely used. What continues is the making of flower vases, water jars and distilling pots, along with coin saving banks and statues of gods. Production methods have changed with the introduction of simple pug mills to replace foot kneading, and electric potter’s wheels.
As Nepal opened up to the world after 1970, many cultural changes began to occur. There were early efforts to make glazed terra cotta, but they never went beyond experiments using imported materials. In 1983, the German government established a project to develop and train potters in making glazed ceramics. By the time the project ended in 1993, about twenty-four private small industries had started up, producing glazed tableware and decorative items, floor and wall tiles, and water filters. These were and are still made using local clays with borax frit glazes (made in Nepal) compounded of local and imported materials. Firing is done in kerosene-fired cross-draft kilns, using a forced-draft steam-powered burner, to cone 08 – 06. Products are sold in Kathmandu shops, and supplied to restaurants and hotels. There is also a substantial export market. Recently, one producer has been able to increase the firing temperature to cone 6, so strong stoneware tableware is now available.
Story of Thimi Ceramics
While much of Thimi remains distinctly traditional, about seven of the workshops in the Cooperative have begun using modern methods in earnest. Thimi Ceramics is one of these seven pioneering workshops. It was founded by Santa Bahadur Prajapati and his two sons, Santa Kumar and Laxmi Kumar. While participating in the CPPN, the two young brothers pursued training abroad in India and Thailand, and then, with the help of the CPPN, established their own pottery in 1985. Having gathered experience from their training in other countries, the two brothers had developed many new ideas for a more modern, professional approach to their business. Thimi Ceramics was one of the first workshops to incorporate electric wheels, oil-fired bricks kilns, and began making the first glazed, earthenware ceramics beginning in 1987.
Santa and Laxmi Kumar have always believed strongly in preserving the tradition of pottery made by hand. The quality and aesthetic of ceramic goods created by hand on the potter’s wheel cannot be matched by machine-produced wares, and this conviction held by the brothers has brought much distinction to the pottery made at Thimi Ceramics. The rhythmic and delicate lines left by the potter’s fingers as he pulls the clay up to form a bowl, and the soft feeling of a hand-pulled cup handle that melds with the shape of one’s fingers while holding the cup give a subtle feeling of delight to whomever uses the pot. This is a feeling that is lost with the daily use of machine-made, mass-produced wares. As industrially made ceramics slowly eclipse hand-made wares in the general market, this becomes yet another way in which the public is losing touch with its traditions and culture. At Thimi Ceramics there is a belief that it is possible to keep the pottery craft of Thimi rooted in the tradition of producing pottery by hand while at the same time creating products that appeal to a more modern aesthetic.
About Gamcha Organic Farm
Gamcha Organic Farm, just 15 km from Kathmandu, 30 minutes from airport, but beautifully located in the open greenery countryside. Gamcha farm was an abandoned organic farm, almost a jungle, when we arrived in April 2008. It has been a quite a challenge, but now we are very happy with the environment we have created and in which we work every day. The farm had been organically and holistically cultivated for over 25 years and was the first place in Nepal to offer organic training, where 150 farmers in the immediate area grew and sold products to Kathmandu.
There are still 35 women in the area, growing organic vegetables which are distributed each day from our farmyard to restaurants in the tourist areas, to GamchaGuest House and for home deliveries of many foreign staying in Nepal. This, together with our own production of organic vegetables and our experimental jams, juices, pesto etc from our experimental kitchen, offers our visitors and guests a varied daily menu. In addition our guests are our most important tasting panel for new products.