Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sabah Craft - Clay Pottery


The lady was slowly pressing strips of clay to the mouth of the labu and indeting them into the existing layers.

Sculpting with clay is widely practiced in Malaysia especially those of making the labu (gourd) which in the past was used to hold water in which the clay vessel would have a cooling effect as the water slowly evaporates in minute amounts on the semi porous surface. Two types of pottey are often made for the labu, some are shaped by hand while the other variety utilises a potter's wheel to ensure uniformity of the surface.


The labu possess various curving surfaces which gives it a sense of style in additon to its utility.

A makeshift potter's wheel is used here and strips of wet clay is slowly applied band by band to the pot and pressed into conforminty using her fingers. Her other hand expertly twists the plate on which the pot sits so that the shape is maintained as she works.


Wooden carved stamps are used to apply repetitious designs to the soft clay surface before the pots and labu are baked.

Once she has the shape she is satisfied with, decorations are applied. Using several tools consisting of carved wood and a sharp knife she applied them with pressure so that an impression is left on the soft clay. Finer patterns are used by shaving minute amounts of clay based on the potter's design.


The shaping of the labu can take several hours and the more intricate designs can require up to several days to shape.

The finished labu is then left to harden a bit and will later be fired in a kiln to harden it before use. The shape and pattern of the labu can be simple or intricate depending on the design. It is a fact that water stored in these clay vessels remains cool as the semi permiable walls allow small amounts of water to seep through and once dried on the surface releases heat from the interior, thus having a cooling effect on the stored liquid. Mostly nowadays, these vessels are kept as ornaments or given as gifts as the refrigerator has taken over this job. Yet the shaping and production of these labu are truly high standards in craftmanship.


The shaped labu only awaits to be fired in the kiln to retain its shape and to strenghten the structure.

1 comment:

Omni said...

Things like that would sell for big $ in America.