Collection: Earthenware-Charai Taba Andro Pottery, Meghalaya Black Pottery, Thongjao Pottery

At Punarnawa, we collaborate with indigenous potters from the Northeast region, specifically from Meghalaya to Manipur.

In Meghalaya, we are involved in an intriguing black pottery craft that utilizes two types of clay for creating earthenware. The clay, known as alluvial clay, is sourced from the alluvial region of the Sung Valley in the West Jaintia Hills. The first type of clay is called Silt pottery clay or red clay, and the second is black clay. Another distinctive element used in making black pottery is the black serpentine stone, which is exclusively found in the Sung Valley. It is crushed and sieved into a fine powder. The potters use firewood for an open-air firing process, ensuring that the clay pottery becomes strong and firm without any breakage.

The difference from Manipur pottery lies in the technique, hand-molding process, and clay preparation and firing, each of which varies. However, the quintessential difference  In Meghalayan pottery is that potters use the bark of a tree known as the 'Sohlia' tree, scientifically called Myrica nagi tree. The bark is crushed and mixed with cold water to create a milky solution. This solution serves as a natural dye for the pottery. The hot sintered clay pottery is dipped into this milky solution, instantly turning it into a permanent black color, giving it a fossil effect. This method of dyeing the pottery is unparalleled and is a cold process of dyeing clay pottery.

Moving further up to Manipur, we work with three different tribes and their pottery.

Andro Pottery, Thangjao Pottery and Hampai Pottery popularly known as Longpi pottery.

Amid historical upheaval, a small group of Meiteis in the Imphal valley bravely clung to their indigenous Sanamahi faith, even as societal pressure mounted to convert to Hinduism from the 1700s onwards. Among them, the women practised Charai Taba, a sacred art known only to the married.

Charai Taba, or "looping clay" in translation, is a rare form of coil pottery that utilizes stacked coils and slabs to shape its forms. Its defining feature lies in the natural fossil-like imprints that harken back to ancient times.

Yet, the beauty of Charai Taba is not just in its craftsmanship, but in the resilience of its practitioners. These guardians of the past, who uphold the ancient Sanamahi faith, rely on the support to maintain their traditional wood-burning kilns and continue their craft, preserving their heritage for generations to come.

The story of Charai Taba embodies the spirit of resilience and courage, representing the last vestige of Asia's oldest matrilineal society. As part of the Andro tradition, our earthenware line pays homage to this rich legacy, ensuring quality and authenticity with every piece. Their beautiful pottery captures the delicate botanical nature of flora and fauna.

The potters of Thongjao mostly belong to the Chakpa clan, but other castes have also taken up this occupation. The raw materials for making earthen vessels are gathered from a nearby pond located to the northeast of the manufacturing workshop. The pond is dug to a depth of about seven meters to obtain the clays. The potters use a mixture of leimu (black) and leikok (whitish) clay, with 50% of each, and nungjreng (sand) as the tempering material. Similar to other pottery-making indigenous methods, they use the free hand pottery building method, where a solid lump of clay is shaped by modeling and by piece building, such as adding coils, strips, and slabs. They are known for making large vessels and pots, especially those used for local beverage making. Pottery firing at Thongjao is conducted in two stages. Initially, biscuit firing is done on a bamboo platform, and then the pots are moved to a proper kiln for proper firing. The kiln at Thongjao is made of bamboo posts and is open on all sides. In the first stage of pottery firing, the pots are placed on top of the bamboo platform, beneath which some straw and a few small wood logs are ignited and consistently stirred with a long bamboo stick. Later, more fuel is added to provide uniform heat to all the pots and control the firing process. The pots are only processed for further firing when the potter is satisfied with their appearance. The final stage of pottery firing involves shifting the pots to a kiln, where a platform of straw is made, followed by a layer of rice husk and another layer of straw. The pots are arranged tightly and covered with straw and ash. Fire is ignited from the base and left for almost 2 days. When there is no more smoke in the kiln, the pots are carefully removed with tongs and sometimes sprinkled with a solution made from kuhi (Pasania pachyphyla) bark to give them strength and color. This solution is made by soaking the bark of the kuhi in water for almost five days and is applied using a brush made of reed. Isn’t this interesting?