Twante is a small provincial town famous for its pottery activities, 25 kilometers far from Yangon. An interesting way to reach Twante is to take the passengers ferry in Yangon and to reach Dalla from the other bank of the river. The ferry ride gives a chance to observe the boats and the port activities but also provide a panoramic view on the massive old colonial buildings along the river.After reaching Dalla, a pre arranged car or a local taxi can bring you to Twante. The transfer takes around
45 minutes on a narrow road through paddies fields until to reach the small town of Twante. Twante is well known for its pottery activities handled by few families since several generations.To visit one of the workshops gives an interesting view of the process of making the pots.Since the Nargis cyclone, and facing the shortage of water in villages,many of the workshops have developed water filters made in clay mostly sent to the Arakan region and the Irrawaddy Delta,the two regions the most affected by the cyclone at this time.
Twante is a traditional pottery centre since early times and is situated about 30 km southeast of Rangoon across the river. There are public jeeps which bring you to the village along a badly-paved road. It produces now only black glazed ovoid jars, flower-pots and small bowls; also unglazed jars, pots and bottle kendis. The plain glazed jars without handles are of three sizes, the smallest is ~10 cm high, the medium sized ~30 cm and the largest is around 60 cm. The clay body usually burns a bright terracotta. The unglazed jars are burnished and are of rounder shape and equipped with a cover. They all have everted rounded lips and are decorated with incised bands at the neck; some have groovings or tiny buttons around the shoulder. Most of the jars have a vitreous glaze but some are dull-glazed which might be caused by a lower firing temperature. Although Twante at present does not produce green glazed wares they might have produced them in the past as there are many Shan potters in Twante. According to information there are still about 30 kilns in Twante with a production of about 500 jars a day. Along the road and in Twante you see large black and red-brown jars which are produced in the pottery villages in the Mandalav province in Upper Burma. The jars are tran-sported down the river Irrawaddy. However based on historical sources Burmese archaeologists believe that Twante was the ceramic centre which produced the famous Pegu jars.
Red clay for the pottery is taken from the surrounding area and is mixed with dried river mud. Since a few years ago they use grinding mills to pulverize the clay and the glaze material. The glaze material comes from the Shan States. According to J G Scott (1921, 278), in the Shan States the slag, called “Chaw” or “Bhwet” from the argentiferous lead mines is used for glazing. It is yellow and has as much as 90% lead in it. After it is pounded up it is mixed with clay and water in which rice has been boiled. To obtain a green glaze, blue-stone (sulphate of copper) is pounded up, and mixed with the “Bhwet” and rice-water. This description is still valid for the present production.
The large jars are manufactured from two parts: the first half is shaped as a flowerpot and when it is in the leather stage (after being left for several days), the upper half is set up with the coil method and then turned on the wheel. The whole procedure takes only a few minutes. One potter can finish about 50 jars a day. In Twante no slip is used, the finished pieces are dipped into the glaze and a small amount is then tossed around inside it.The kilns in Twante, Pegu and Shwe Nyein are identical. It is a cross-draft kiln, beehive-shaped with a domed roof, made of unfired bricks and mud with a sloping floor. There is no division between the fire and firing chamber. All the kilns have a centrifuge in the back wall and some have additional smaller openings beside it. The kiln is supported at each side by a high brick wall and each is protected by a bamboo roof. The largest kiln in Twante is about 4,3,2m high on the inside which can fire about 500 pieces.Tubular pontils and spur pontils are used for stacking. Some pontils have three spurs but the larger ones with a diameter of about 17 cm have four spurs. When asked why they did not use the spur pontils for stacking the bowls to save space, they answered that it would leave unsightly marks on the inside. We were told that the firing including the cooling period takes about 10 days. The firing temperature is probably about 1,000°C. We were fortunate to be able to take pictures of a kiln which had been opened the day before.
Potter sieving the clay to separate out the good quality fine powder. The bigger pieces that remain in the basket will be crushed using the wooden instrument in the background. Someone bounces on the left end, whilst holding the bamboo railing, to breakup the clay rocks at the other end.
Photo : Ei Ei Khine