The prominent centres of Clay craft of Tamil Nadu are located in Chennai, Kanchipuram and parts of Arcot district. Vellore in north Arcot district has gained popularity for black and red earthenwares created with excellent artistic charm. Kanchipuram is also a well-known clay-toy making centre. Black pottery in Usilampatti, Madurai is an ancient craft form. The articles in this form of clay crafts are painted with a special yellow material. Panruti in south Arcot is renowned for an array of clay works that ranging from large figures of deities to toys and other items. Karigiri in south Arcot is most famous for creating items with a local semi-vitreous white low fusing china clay with high plasticity known as 'namakatte'. The exclusivity of this particular type of pottery lies in its creation of highly artistic shapes, use of vibrant colours and brilliant adornment. Karigiri is also acclaimed for creating toy animals especially the toy zoo which is a collection of wild animals. A wide variation is maintained in creating a special kind of comic toys called 'Chettiar' toys which are comical in appearance with traditional attire, sacred thread and a paunch. The artisans give the toys a modern look by decorating these toys with modern dresses and oscillating-heads. A special kind of toy called 'Gundu Chettiar' is believed to bring good fortune and is widely available in the local markets. The toys are also used for religious purposes. The toys or dolls which are used in the festival of Dussehra are usually made of terracotta.
The clay crafts of Tamil Nadu have a wide variety of clay items to offer and the skilled handling of the artisans give the clay items a different appeal. Even the very common clay pipe chillum is made into a notable item both through its elegant shape and its deep blue or green varnish. Apart from these items, the artisans of this place are adept in creating water jugs, tableware items including tea and dinner sets, ashtrays, beautifully decorated flower vases and decorative animal figures and paperweights.
The clay crafts of Tamil Nadu have a tradition of making clay toys as well. Making of this clay items need special care and a few steps are followed while creating these toys. On the first level, plaster of Paris is mixed with tapioca powder to form a paste which is dried till it can be rolled into layers. This paste is then transformed into moulds. Rock clay is used after being properly moistened. Then this is pushed into the mould dusted with French chalk powder to make it easily removable. This mould is then exposed to heat and then the final mould is prepared. After preparing the mould, the artisans give shape to the different items as per his desires. The items are then coloured by the women.
The clay crafts of Tamil Nadu have been providing livelihood to many people as in Chennai almost 300 artisan families from Cuddalore who have settled in Kosapet are engaged in clay craft. Clay craft of Karukurichi in Tirunelveli district is popular for its technical superiority and creative exuberance. These clay crafts are prepared with the usage of red, black and grey clay base. This clay body appears to be of an added glitz after applying a coating of red ochre. This method is applied almost on each item that serves the utilitarian need.
The clay crafts of Tamil Nadu have a distinctive style and the artisans of Tamil Nadu follow a particular style and charm that is predominantly their own.
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