Clay is an eco-friendly material. It plays an important role in the environment itself by being a natural scavenger of pollutants. The natural source is structured in a way that it collaborates with water to increase its quality. As a result, clay is well known for its hygienic quality. (1) This amazing material is moulded into different shapes and forms giving opportunity for hidden talents to find its way to the surface. Sri Lanka is a country that has a long history with such clay-based products.
According to sources, the use of clay in Sri Lanka started to gain more attention with the introduction of Buddhism to the island. Buddhist stupas were built using clay. Clay craftsmen have been coming down to Sri Lanka on various historical occasions which eventually improved the local crafting talents creating professions for creators. (2) The country specializes in its patterns and styles when it comes to its pottery products. Each form of pottery served a different purpose. Pottery used for domestic purposes was often not decorated whereas decorative pottery was coloured and glazed.
SRI LANKA CLAY
Sri Lanka possesses a variety of clay in abundance. The raw materials are categorized according to their contribution to the production of various clayware. Earthenware clay, Ball clay, and White clay are three main varieties that can be found at various parts of the island. Earthenware clay is the common red clay that is usually used to make bricks by mixing it with sand and grit. In Sri Lanka, this clay variety is obtained from the Naththandiya area. The clean layers of this clay are used for pottery. Ball clay is mostly found in Boralesgamuwa and Meetiyagoda. It occurs in large deposits. This is the clay variety that is used to manufacture porcelain and ceramics.
SRI LANKAN CLAY PRODUCTS
The key requirement of a vessel is always to serve the purpose it is designed for. Sri Lankan potters create their unique products with the use of equipment that is specially built for pottery. Traditional water-storing vessels designed by these creators such as Kalagediya and Gurulettuwa have a spherical shape with a wide inner space to store water. The clay used to make these vessels absorbs and removes the organic and inorganic contaminants from drinking water. Therefore, some of these vessels are used today in the same form while some have transformed to serve the suit modern lifestyle while delivering the same advantage to the user.
THE INDUSTRY POTENTIAL
Sri Lanka is already a leading supplier of porcelain and ceramic products in the world market. The produced ceramic ware reflects the country’s rich artistic heritage. The ceramic industry consists of many resources including a high-skilled labour force, excellent management, and state-of-art technology. These products comply with international standards giving a fair competition to the competing countries.
Pottery studios and workshops are now present in Sri Lanka. These institutions help young talent to discover their potential and become promising craftsmen to serve the industry. Some of these institutions are sponsored by the government with the motive of improving the talent and technology that involves the production of clayware. Guidance is given to the craftsman at these workshops regarding the preparation of clay body mixtures and glazers.