The Dana Pottery Community, Auroville, Part 3 (Oil Burners)

The instant I saw this potter making oil burners, I was interested. Unusually so, because of a terrible mistake I'd made earlier in our trip around India. It began in Mysore, at a lovely indoor market where two brothers beckoned us into their shop...

We didn't really want to go in but they insisted, giving us a demonstration on how to make incense sticks. Reasonably interesting stuff. "Chai?" they asked. "Sure," we said. The shop was founded by the brothers' grandfather (greasy pictures on the wall attested this) and it specialises in oils of all sorts. They let us smell the selection: jasmine, lotus, lemongrass, rose, sandalwood... you name the flower and he had the oil. Decanters lined the walls. You can easily make your own perfume by adding five or so drops to 100ml of high % alcohol. This idea intrigued me, and I thought about the possibility of doing this in the future, and blowing some more perfume bottles to put them in. (I have blown a few and it's great fun). They told us you can post the oils home, no problem. We were charmed good and proper, and left with eight little glass bottles bearing 40ml of fine-smelling oil. They were wrapped up decently with string, and came with a free wad of incense.

I kept them in the middle of my roll of clothes and carried my back pack tentatively all the way to Kochi. In Kochi we try to post them home with a whole load of spices, knives and other things we'd picked up. "No oils," the postmaster said. Oh dear. So I've been carrying this fragile package around for the last two months, trying not to damage it. My backpack now smells like the inside of Chanel's bathroom, and I'm pretty sure one or more of the bottles has exploded. I put them in a cardboard box inside a plastic bag and by now the cardboard is soaked and disintegrating, the bag all sloppy inside.

But I still have hope some of the glass vials are intact. The way that most people use these oils in India is by putting a drop or two in the top of a burner, with a candle underneath, so the smell slowly fills the house. If I have any bottles intact by the time I get home, I want to make a few of these and try it out.

So. When I arrived, the potter was throwing the tops of the burners, the bottoms already completed. He was throwing them off the hump at great speed, putting in the final swish with a practiced hand.

Oil burner tops.

Le hump
Le video:

Next up, trimming:

 And then joining. Here are the bodies ready for their tops:

A joined one, up close:

Gorgeous workshop. The afternoon light was spectacular through these windows. The little holes cut into the sides of these oil burners will create a similar effect when a candle is lit inside.


 Here they are lined up to dry, ready for firing.

In the kiln they go.