Myanmar

Traditional Myanmar pottery

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In Myanmar, earthenware has been used since Neolithic period. From that time onwards, potteries have been commonly used for different domestic and religious and ritual repurpose. Earthenware production centers can be found throughout Myanmar. One of the well known earthenware production centers of central Myanmar is Sagaing. Sagaing is famous for its earthenware, sagaing oui. Sagaing is situated in Sagaing Region. Oh-Bo village is one of the earthenware production places of Sagaing.

Oh-Bo pottery business particularly focuses on making only water storage pot and Ata Oui or Thingyan pot. The potters of Oh-Bo village make these earthenware pots by using traditional way. They produce them by handmade through five production stages. These production stages are collecting raw materials, preparing paste, shaping pot, applying before firing decoration techniques and firing. Because of the plastic bottles and cans, the earthenware production business of Oh-Bo village is now facing the danger of extinction. 

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Out of all of humankind’s handicrafts, pottery is the oldest. Even writing, the very method of communication used to create this article, came after the first pots. And like many things, it’s theorized that it was discovered by complete accident. In ancient times, people would transport water in handwoven baskets. The water, especially that from rivers, would have some clay in it. As the clay dried out, it would take on the shape of the basket. Eventually, people realized that these clay linings could be used as sturdy containers. They gathered clay, shaped it, and baked in the sun or hot ashes, sometimes decorating them with primitive tools. Thus, the first clay pots (and by extension, all of pottery) was born.

The oldest known body of pottery dates back 10,000 years, during the Neolithic revolution. Lifestyles in the Middle East and Africa were transitioning from nomadic hunters and gatherers to farmers who put down roots and planted crops. Baskets were useful handicrafts used for gathering, but they couldn’t hold liquids. Mind you this was long before hoses or irrigation systems were in the picture, and farmers needed to be able to water their crops. Necessity dictated that it was essential to find a material that was readily available and inexpensive, pliable enough to shape and light enough to carry. Clay fit the bill and was an abundant resource in the region. Early pots were built by stacking rings of clay, which were then smoothed out and fired in a hole in the ground, under a bonfire. These pots were undecorated and expendable — they were created simply as a means to transport liquids, and sometimes were only used once they were being disposed of. Eventually, people figured out that mixing sand in with the clay resulted in pots strong enough to withstand being directly in a fire. This was likely sometime during the medieval period. The same concept is used today when creating casserole dishes for baking. It also helps prevent warping, cracking, or exploding inside of the kiln during firing.

Nowadays, pottery is heated through the use of a kiln. It’s widely accepted that the ancient Egyptians created the first kilns, lined with bricks made with clay and straw for insulation. They were also among the first to glaze their pottery before firing. Much like their modern equivalent, this glaze gave the pottery a glass-like sheen and texture and made the item non-porous.

Clay-based pottery can be divided into three main groups: earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. These require increasingly more specific clay material, and increasingly higher firing temperatures. All three are made in glazed and unglazed varieties, for different purposes. All may also be decorated by various techniques. In many examples the group a piece belongs to is immediately visually apparent, but this is not always the case. The fritware of the Islamic world does not use clay, so technically falls outside these groups. Historic pottery of all these types is often grouped as either “fine” wares, relatively expensive and well-made, and following the aesthetic taste of the culture concerned, or alternatively “coarse”, “popular”, “folk” or “village” wares, mostly undecorated, or simply so, and often less well-made.

About 2000 years ago the Pyu people. a Tibeto-Burman tribe settled in the upper part of Myanmar. their first capital established in Sriksetra near present day Pyay. Since the city was located near the great Ayeyarwaddy River. the economic and strategic use for migrating the pots became an important role at that time. Around the 8th century the Pyus relocated their capital north to Halin in the region of Shwebo. The making of the pots with clay and decorations were descended from such a time. The ceramic trading had been a popular and interesting deal. The Mottama harbour on the seacost. formerly known as Martaban. have been an important link in the ceramic pottery trade with the Southeast Asian countries.

Although pots are fragile. these can be made use in many useful ways. Pots were not only used to store or cook food but also as burial urns to bury gold and jewelries. The remains of some old pots used during the Pyu civilizations were discovered. giving evidences that pots had been used since then. Remains were also found in Bagan and Mrauk-U regions. Today. the main pottery works in Myanmar are situated in Nwe Nyein village near Kyauk Myaung. a river-side town near Shwebo and Twante near Yangon.

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Few countries can boast as many perfectly preserved traditional crafts as Myanmar. Despite the rapid modernization, many commodities are still produced by hand there, using age-old techniques. Pottery is among the most prominent of those – there are large artisan communities in every corner of the country. And the pottery factories in Kyaukmyaung, Sagaing Division, may be considered double-traditional. In essence, not only the process is entirely manual, but the wares made are also old-school: large water jars, used in households with no plumbing. While easily accessible from Mandalay, the manufactures are never visited by tourists.

Burmese people are deservedly known for their hospitality, however, and in off the beaten track locations like this, natural curiosity enhances it. The demand for Kyaukmyaung jars in Myanmar is high enough to support four large co-operative manufactures and a changing number of small private workshops. Curiously, one of the main factors undermining this demand is the superior quality of the jars. They are sturdy and durable enough to serve a family for generations, with no need to purchase new ones. It makes you reconsider the common Western policy of making every commodity item a bit flawed and not easy to repair so that you would have to replace it soon, does it not? It is sufficient to say that the pottery business in Kyaukmyaung was on the decline in recent decades (plastic vessels and plumbing contributing to this as well) until the Cyclone Nargis arrived in 2008 and shattered enough of the old jars and newly built piping to kick-start the sales again.

Getting to Kyaukmyaung is relatively straightforward: take a bus or a train from Mandalay to Shwebo town, also in Sagaing Division, that has a few simple hotels. Stay the night, then hire a motorbike taxi to take you to Kyaukmyaung, or hitchhike there. Work in the pottery factories finishes in mid-afternoon, making an overnight stay in Shwebo preferable, but if you have your own wheels, it can be managed as a day trip from Mandalay, too. The artisans are friendly and curious, they have not seen many Western tourists yet, so you can wonder around freely even if you do not speak Burmese – and if you do, they may share a few secrets of their traditional craft.

Read more:Why Should Visit To Local Shan Market in Myanmar

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