Firing Clay Dolls

Bommai soozhai or Man/Mannu boomai soozhai is the place for firing clay dolls which is nothing but the kiln. Traditional clay dolls have always been our favourites. Most of the houses and showcases are decorated with clay dolls and the festive season like Navratri is celebrated using these clay dolls by displaying in Golu. These dolls are very brittle and little effort is required to maintain it without breaking. Plethora of dolls are made every year according to trend and requirement of the customers. The process of firing of clay dolls is described below. 

Raw Material:

  1. Room dry clay dolls.
  2. Dry Twigs (Kutchi), Firewood (Viragu Katta), Dry rice or paddy straw (Vaikol).
  3. Kerosene
  4. Wet Clay
  5. Gum(Gondhu), Chalk Powder, Water

Process:

The room temperature dried dolls are fired in a kiln in order to make it more strong and durable. The process of firing is carried out in the backyard of craftsman’s house. Separate space for making temporary kiln is allocated. The process is started by placing kutchi, Viragu Katta, Vaikol in layers at bottom and dolls are arranged above that. In similar fashion, alternate layers of dolls and firewood are arranged. The clay dolls are earthy brown in colour and nearly 1000 dolls are kept in the kiln to fire.

VaikolVaikol

SticksViragu Kattai

When does the kiln is set ?
When 1000 to 2000 dolls of 6 to 10 different types is made and room dried, soozhai is set. As mentioned above, once the arrangement is done the whole setup is covered with vaikol again. Simultaneously wet clay is prepared on the other side. From the nearby village the clay is procured. The clay is made to a semi solid paste and poured (Masked) above the arrangement, which looks like a dome.The setup process takes around 1 to 2 hours. Once the set up is done, at the bottom kerosene is poured and lit. The fire slowly spreads throughout the setup and this takes around 4 to 6 hours. During this process some dolls might burst and can also create cracks on the dolls. So only next day morning the dolls are taken out of the kiln. Now from brown clay colour the dolls turn to brick red colour. Once the dolls are taken out they are applied with gondhu (Gum), chalk powder and water mixture to make it more sturdy and let them dry. The dolls will be segregated according to varieties and broken dolls are kept aside.

Dolls for firingUntangling the straws

Kiln Set UpArrangement of dolls and dry paddy straws

Kiln Set UpCovering the whole set up with vaikol

Clay From Local VillagePreparing clay to apply on the kiln

Clay for maskingClay to apply on the kiln 

Masking of dolls with ClayClay applied Kiln

Firing of dollsFiring Kiln

End Product:

Fired Clay DollFired Traditional Clay dolls-Tamil Nadu

Fired Clay dolls in which the earthy brown colour has turned out to brick red colour. Further these dolls are applied with a coating of chalk,gum and water mixture and let it dry for few days and finally painted by hand.