A Saga in Terracotta
to Mirpur on a working day and you will find a fascinating collection
of terracotta at an outlet called the Burnt Clay. Here portraits
of well known figures such as Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi,
Mujibur Rahman, Rokeya Begum and Sofia Kamal vie for attention
with brightly coloured vases, planters, lamp shades, glazed
painting and masks. The man behind Burnt Clay is Tayabuzzaman
Khan (Topu), a talented ceramic artist and animator whose work
has earned recognition in Bangladesh for its exquisite and innovative
staged an entry in the ceramics market in 1995 after Khan had
completed his diploma and bachelor's degree in ceramics from
Dhaka University and been through a short course in ceramics
from the University of Sussex, UK. His choice of vocation was
born out of the realisation that there was a growing market
for ethnic pottery. "I love pottery," says Khan, pointing
out that "popular tastes are changing and there is a revival
of interest in this medium."
according to Khan, is an expensive medium. The cost of a furnace
is over Taka 2 lakh, wheel machine Taka 7,000 and clay comes
at a cost of Taka 200 per kg. To start his organisation, Khan
and his wife Mahmuda Rahman Khan invested Taka 1 lakh each towards
a furnace. Another Taka 2 lakh was spent on other costs such
as office furniture and decoration. "It is a myth that
pottery is a low cost medium," says Khan.
his ceramics business, Khan finds the time to organise classes
in pottery, singing, dance and art for children twice a week
at Shishu Aangina, which he runs from his home. Three-month
pottery courses are also held twice a week. The next course
is to be held in mid-January.
a ready market for ceramics, says Khan. "The demand is
more than the supply. I plan to employ more people so that I
can meet the demand," he says, pointing out that he will
take on 10 designers and two wheelmen. As for technology upgradation,
he says that he will need to invest around Taka 50,000 for a
tile making machine. So far tiles are made free hand but this
machine will ensure better quality and quantity of tiles.
market is valued at a sizeable Taka 1 crore. Burnt Clay supplies
pottery to Aarong, Heed Bangladesh, Proshika and others. The
organisation is in competition with traditional craftspeople
who emulate the former's design and sell the product cheaply.
Consequently, Burnt Clay has to keep a step ahead with better
designs and products. Among the future additions to Khan's product
line are door and window panels crafted out of terracotta. On
the anvil also is the production of building material.
Clay is ably supported by Khan’s wife Mahmuda. Though she has
a successful career with the Department For International Development
(DFID) of UK, she has been active in promoting the ceramic product
line through her contacts with expatriates. Among Burnt Clay's
business successes, she cites the example of a one-day workshop
held last summer at the British High Commission Club for children
of expatriates. "The children were very excited by the
medium. For them it was akin to working with play dough,"
says Mahmuda. The next step forward for Burnt Clay, she says,
is the development of export links with countries such as UK,
USA and Australia.
recent upsurge in demand for traditional crafts, the future
for Burnt Clay looks promising. Yet as more players enter the
ceramics market and the small indigenous potters display their
might, competition will ensure that Khan's brainchild is always
a step ahead.