Today I (Tiphaine Texier) got the opportunity to experience Thimi and pottery making, a traditional art in this part of Kathmandu. My expectations were not too high, but in the end it turned out that this day tour was much more than watching someone making pottery!
Thimi is a tiny village located on the road between Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. A whole district is exclusively oriented towards pottery. Each family has its own little workshop in the basement of the house. But since it is a sunny day, everyone is outside. Every member of the family has its own task. The man is handling the hard work, making the raw version of the pot. The wife (or the grandma, or the teenager kid) is dealing with the decorations and the finishing touches. Depending on the design of the pot and its size, a family can make in average 50 pots per day!
Then all the pots lie in the sun to start drying. When the family has been making up to 800 pots, the kiln is set on the street. The kiln… ? It is a small hill of straw where all the pots are set up and fit together as a pyramid. Then they are covered with ashes from the previous fire. At the end of this (quite long) process, the « cooking of the pots » can start. It will take a few days, and then cool down peacefully for four more days. Most of the pots will be then sold at the markets in Kathmandu or exported.
It is incredible to see how the whole village is relying on the pottery industry. There are no schools to learn this skill. The kids just have to observe their dad, uncle, grandpa or neighbor… The challenge for the village is that children go to school for longer and they get more and more educated (which is a good thing!). With so tiny income, making pots every single day is not interesting for them anymore. The number of potters is reducing, as a potter passes away. Will the pots from Thimi become a rare product in near future? It might happen…
Some potters decide to study the art of pottery abroad in order to reinforce the industry by bringing new processes and new ideas. This is the case of Santa, who runs a small company in the heart of Thimi. Santa has been studying pottery techniques in India and in Germany. He passed his knowledge to his team, and most of the potteries produced are sent throughout the world. Nepalese are coming from the whole country to learn and work in his small factory. Sitting directly on the floor, they spend several hours each day creating magnificent clay artifacts. He is preserving an ancient skill, which could disappear if no one takes care of it.
At his small company you can choose among a wide range of color powders, which will be mixed to the clay. You can find plates, cups, vases, and incense holders…
FINALLY comes the moment of truth: it’s our turn to try and make something! Santa shows us how to make a simple pot on the turning wheel. Using his hands the clay is quickly getting a very nice shape. It seems extremely easy. In practice, it’s not! But I must say that I enjoyed a lot trying, because you are so focused on what you are doing that there is no space for thoughts in your mind. A kind of meditation… AMAZING!
We will have to wait ten days before we will get our pots ready to decorate it. In the meanwhile, we can still buy some unique items at a small shop…!
Soon the trip is over. We greet Mister D, and hit the road towards Kathmandu again. The day has been refreshing, peaceful, and we are now ready to enjoy the rest of the day in the big city!
Written by Tiphaine Texier in Nepal..