Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Egypt, Garagus pottery,

I am a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.
  - J. D. Salinger

Garagus  near Qus  has a population of 20.000.   of which 5.000 are Cristian  and from what I saw of the  village  most must be farmers and it seemed a lot of idle layabouts  lots of youths causing problems with each other one argument started after a stone was thrown hitting one of the people sitting in the back of a local microbus,  no one it seems can talk in a normal voice they can whisper as so often happens on seeing a white person and usually ends up with the bravest or has he been bullied into asking this walking A.T.M,  for money,   my name ,   hello baksheesh"  has spread out from Luxor into the neighboring villages because most of these louts knocked on the cab window  and called me baksheesh.

The main railway line from Aswan To Cairo runs for the best part in the villages and on a Nile river course,
a great way to travel during the day if you wish to see Egypts delta area the journey from Aswan to Cairo is 14 hours give or take a couple of hours. the journey by local train can take up to 24 hours. tourists not allowed to travel on these trains. I have but never again its like traveling an over crowded smelly wc.
never traveled in a wc? but that's the only way I can describe it. after traveling by rail in Kenya and Sri Lanka
the renowned smelly trains  they were first class in comparison.

  28.1.10 while in the process of writing this blogspot, strangely enough I had an e-mail from a doctor who lives in India. the e-mail was in connection with my Nile pollution blog, and says how bad travel is here,   saying that after the trains in India,   they must be bad here even the tourist trains got a thumbs down,I have put part of his letter on  the  myegypt  home page  on pollution of the Nile.

The trains cause a bottle neck that takes until the next train in one hour  to clear
no one will give way on this narrow strip of road  hence causing a lot of anger between the drivers 

once we left the main tourist road  we are on dirt track

The steel minaret very unusual 
Nothing gets thrown away in case someone can fix it as in the case of this threshing machine  just dumped in the middle of the road  
.these small domes are something to do with the mosque's  all are different shapes and sizes

 and here we are,  just like the pottery in Dhakla  there are no signs to say  " Pottery this way"
 and after asking a few locals we managed to find the building

Hassan fathy was an Egyptian architectect,   want to read more on him go to
No its not Sneezy one of the snow white dwarfs  this is the owner of the pottery a very devout copt I think Franciscan from a couple of things he said.     he had his English language tour patter off by heart there was no point in my Saying "whats that for" when wanting to look at something that was of interest to me so I wandered off anyway leaving him mumbling something under his breath. and would be in the same place on my return even with his patter. and the hand was raised as we entered certain parts of the building  in a come in here gesture,
These are molds  with a potter sitting working one of the newly formed work. 

I also noticed the molds,   a single mold means hand made in clay,   a twin mold means a liquid mold 
the mold splits once the liquid that is poured into it through a hole has dried.

The clay used in this factory is of the highest quality from a Quarry in Aswan.

The clay pit,   here the clay is transformed into a liquid for pouring into the more intricate Moulds.

The potter is in the process of taking the first phase of a pot out of the mould.
after making the pot its left in the sun to dry for one or 2 hours can not let it dry too much or it will get a hairline crack the semi dry piece is then taken into the workshop where another guy makes the designs.
Here the designer is making reliefs for a churches plaster work

These are the little things that interest me from this I could tell if the cast was made from a lump of clay are a liquid clay. no air holes means a lump of clay this had air bubble holes. but when I asked sneezy  the owner he said from clay.  notice the signature that is made by the potter after the first phase  
The clay store  this place was built over 200 years ago bt then the clay was from a local pit
most likely  the same clay they still use for pot making . today its called a ceramic factory only glazed fired pots are made here.  unlike the pottery we visited on the desert trip.

 Walking into this part of the place really was like stepping back in time  only difference was the electric light
and wash tap

Mr sneezy going through the motions of how to get a piece of  clay ready for the potters wheel 
Pointing to this lump of clay He said this is come from Aswan cost much money,

 been here to long not to know what was coming next.     
I have no Idea  why they make  pieces like this its very heavy meaning there is a lot of this cost a lot clay in the making of the piece  the pot itself is made from two half molds then stuck together while the clay is drying up the handle and spout are then put on  the end of the spout has a hole in that's about 2" deep meaning the rest of the spout is solid clay. hmm! maybe the contents are poured out of the top  thus needing the handle and spout to hold the piece while pouring the contents out, but looks a nice piece  and maybe its only meant to go in a glass ornament case. like my gran had in the 50s
 the end of this building was the place for making tea and out of courtesy or the thought of charging whatever for a cup, I was asked several times if I wanted a cup of tea no was my answer each time. after I saw where the cups where rinsed leaving red marks on the cup.
On to the potters wheel.   unlike any I have seen before this was a very  interesting design  I am sure not  originally built for small pieces but the large water carriers that are used all over Egyptian villages and maybe those big alli baba pots.
The foot lever is pushed back and forward with a bar that works a rather large fly wheel once the fly wheel is in motion it only needs a slight push to keep the potters table in motion  due to the cog mechanism  the big fly wheel has a belt that drives the smaller wheel on the base of the potters wheel Table  the table is the piece that clay is put on for molding by hand.  once the piece is finished it is cut with a piece of wire ( like a cheese wire) from the table  it takes quite a while for the flywheel to stop  and is still in motion by the time they are ready to make the next pot.      making a piece on a potters wheel called throwing a pot. 
the potter in motion  the cheese wire near to hand  
 so proud was sneezy the pot never broke up,   this pot took about 30 seconds to make .
 this pot if not for demonstration purposes would have to be thrown again  notice the rather large thumb print on the base of the pot, notice also the wall behind mr sneezy  this shows how fast that potters wheel spins to splash the residue that far.
This is about the last straw with my  snow white mr sneezy . I am a stone mason that is my trade I am also a retired builder  of  50 years .  I have built ovens not as small as this  I have worked inside the kilns in sumners steel Shotton. I was a foreman with Gerald Hughes Llysfaen quarry and looked after the tarmac plant kiln.
 I re built places for Craft Center Cumry almost rebuilt the woolen mill in Penmachno. back in the 70s  they too had potters wheels several in fact so the tourist could play at making their own pots. some where pretty good at it even on the first try  I never could throw a pot always tried to make them too thin  like crown derby.China pots.   once the pot was thrown it was put in the glaze and fired in an electric oven, the pot was ready in one hour. for the happy pot thrower.  and of course some never came back for that ugly mug.  and were sold as such in the woolen mill gift shop  they made a good trade  and this is where the ugly mug craze started with craft center Cumry.  a link to a photo of the mill
so back to mr sneezy who has in my book has  become just another Egyptian.
 now he said this is the oooven. and the pots are put in here after they have been glass-ed  ( cannot say glazed) as you see we have two one behind the other .  I knew the reason why two ovens    its cheaper to fire the two on one fire, and wood is an expensive commodity here. that is why the sugar cane grass is used to fire up the clay bread ovens and for cooking for the poor people who cannot afford gas ovens.
 looking at this kiln its not been in use for yonks,  no door half the fire bricks inside are missing so if they filled this kiln with pots no matter how good a fire they had the pots would not cook the kilns for cooking or baking the pots have to be A certain temperature  or the glaze will crack . remember I said I went off if I saw something of interest, while on one of my something of interest jaunts I happened to see a rather nice electric kiln very similar to the one used in one of  C'C C's mill but bigger . not saying anything to spoil mr sneezy liars rhythm. because I was quite interested in the way the place did work in another era.
 then this thing about how expensive the wood was to fire up the oooven came up  and I changed the subject by asking where is the shop where you sell all the stuff that is burnt in the oooven then.  and up to this point I was Quite interested in purchasing a small piece that may have taken my fancy.

By the time we got to this room money for the Church had been mentioned several times.
Here we have semi fired and finished pieces
Most of the pieces in this room waiting to be glazed before being fired/
the plates he had on offer   were all rejects and looked like they had been made 200 years ago.
 but I am not a person who buys things for the sake of putting money in someones pocket  If I want to buy something it has to be near perfect and I am not really worried about the price  so the word no thank you was used .   and Mr Sneezy was getting Quite unpleasant . it seemed   from what I could make out they are quite busy  and all the good stuff  is sold,  because  I saw nothing in the place that was made professionally  If I was doing a job like this  by the time I had made several pieces they would look good.  all looked amateurish  and no pride taken in the making. so Again I asked where is the shop that sells the finished pieces,
 these finish he said angrily and on we went to another room where stuff was packed on shelves to the roof, 
He took great pride in showing this piece of Santa Maria.
Why she is standing on the dome of a mosque only the maker will know. they seem to put all there prayers in Maria , to me Christ the son is only worthy of my prayers  sure she was the blessed God blessed her through the angel Gabriel.  not going into that  so will cut it here.

The  glazing room  the coloured pots hold the oxide used for glazing 

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Now these wall light shades I had an interest in wll made and a nice finish   but sorry Mr Tony  not on sell.  and decided to try the all to often used offer of come visit my home I have . that's as far as that conversation went. and another tactic was used like come and see the things I make for my Church.  then we headed out of the factory compound and he was leading me through some fields  I asked wher we going   then his tone got into a serious  and came out with !  You know the church need money.  at that I turned around and walked off . first He would not understand a word I say. Even the English have a problem understanding my accent.
 so I did not go into the fact I was a volunteer  and how I came to Egypt to build a clinic for the poor. just a waste of breath. I  and gave the little guy on the potters wheel 20 egp.  by the look on his face he had not seen that much for a long time  . got in the taxi and left.        Its only 20 to go visit a pharaonic tomb
and as I said I went there in the hope of finding something to buy. but that's the way here in Egypt'
 I quite enjoyed the visit and I always say to myself they just can not help it.
This guy said he also wanted some money for this Hospital. as we where leaving the village  I needed to use the loo. so stopped the taxi and decided to have a cup of tea and water pipe  rather than just go in the coffee shop and use the loo.  while talking with the locals through my Driver Ahmed. we found out there is no hospital in the area  only in the main town of  Qus  5 kilometer away.  so Mr Sneezy  was  one of the dwarfs from story land. I wonder what Snow White would think.
 I really enjoyed the day out and for me it was well worth the visit,  the travel through the villages and seeing the way people live outside of hassletown  Luxor  makes living in Egypt pleasant and one of the reasons I came here to the upper delta of Egypt to live.

Not the end of the story  This was the loo in the coffee shop  a small opening for light in the day  a hole in the ground that had a Channel no 5  aroma. that made my Eyes water and  it already had a visitor or two.  
and of course the usual light fitting.   welcome to Wonderland.
 I say that because I always have to wonder what is next. 

1 comment:

waleed elrawy said...

my name is walid,i live in cairo,i liked your topic about pottery ,and i want to buy 2 pottery wheels for my kids(including all accessories)clay and everything
can you please assist me where to buy from ,any sources contact where the wheel made my email is