Pottery is one of the oldest handicrafts practiced in the UAE, dating back some 2,500 years.
The history of pottery in the UAE goes back – according to archaeological evidence found in the Umm Al Nar area – to 2500 BC, with tombs found in the area containing a vast amount of clay and pottery items.
Saeed Saif Al Shaksi, an Emirati potter, has practiced pottery since the age of 15, carrying on the tradition passed on from his father for some 50 years. Pottery was considered as a source of income for many families like Al Shaksi’s.
There are various specialist techniques and methods applied in the pottery handicraft. Pottery is made by forming a clay body into objects via hand-building or the use of a potter’s wheel, which is then placed into a kiln at high temperatures to set the shape of the object.
According to Al Shaksi, clay used for pottery in the UAE comes in three types, green, yellow and red.
“Red clay is classified as stoneware clay which is extracted from mountains. It is fired to melting point temperatures and is used to create plates to serve food and coffee pots, Al Shaksi continued.
“Green clay, or earthenware, is found underground,” the Emirati potter explained, adding, “Usually, earthenware is mixed with stoneware, to hold together and for a cohesive cooling as it is fired at lower temperatures.”
A clay sample extracted from the source can make up to 8,000 pottery pieces of various shaped and sizes, he enthused.
He said that pottery making involves various techniques, producing some 400 different items from vases to water jugs, crocks, pots for cooking, and the Qahwa Dallah (coffee pots) to be used by families in their everyday lives.