Lombok Island, Indonesia, is a tropical volcanic island to the east of Bali. Along with textiles, wood carving, and basket making, pottery has played an important role in Lombok village life. These traditional crafts and skills have produced the utensils, clothes and tools to fulfil everyday needs. Pottery serves a practical use and is used for everyday cooking, rice and food storage, and ceremonies.
Pottery-making has traditionally been carried out by women, with the skills passed down over the centuries from mother to daughter, generation to generation. The male family members are involved in the etching and firing process. Each village has a different technique and process resulting in different products and styles across the island.
Lombok is abundant in earthenware clay. Lombok pottery (or Sasak pottery, as Lombok is mostly made up of the Sasak people) is made from this natural clay, along with water and temper sand, which contains organic matter and volcanic ash. The sand strengthens the clay and the pottery, increasing its resistance to sudden variations in temperature changes, or thermal shock. Therefore it can be used over direct fire, as traditionally used in the village, as well as in the oven. This strength differentiates Lombok pottery from most other earthenware clay-based pottery.
The process of making a typical pot starts with the forming of the product by building up coils of clay and shaping with the aid of a throwing wheel and such tools as stones, paddles and coconut husks. Once it is scraped and smoothed it is left to dry until firm. Once dry enough the potter rubs and burnishes the surface with a stone until shiny - this compacts the clay even further. For cooking pots this is important as this makes the pot almost completely watertight.
After the pots are dried in the sun for a number of days, they are ready to be fired. Lombok pottery is traditionally fired in an open fire of sticks and straw. Firing in this way is a carefully managed process, with the villagers making sure that pottery is heated evenly, and topping up the fire with rice husks and ash when necessary. When the pottery is “ripe” they are removed. It is at this stage that the pottery is covered with rice bran, which carbonises the clay body to blacken the pots, or sprayed with tamarind extract to give them a speckled, reddish-brown colour.
*For more information on Lombok pottery and a wonderful and detailed story of the history, culture and process of making this beautiful pottery see Vessels of Life, by Jean McKinnon (ISBN: 9799508509).