I was informed today, by Udai's cousin Gulab of the sad news that Udai died on the 5th of January 2007.
"He left for heaven on 05/01/07 in a car accident near Udaipur airport along with two other relatives." This is a very terrible blow for his family and Molela village."
I was shocked and saddened to hear this news. Udai was a very talented potter and recognised world-wide for his work. He will be missed, not only for his work, but as a person who was modest about his achievements and a good and gentle man.
Our deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers go both to his family and the whole village of Molela. He will be sadly missed by many people in India and throughout the world.
For fifteen generations Udai Lal Kumhar's family have practised the tradition of making terracotta plaques of
traditional Hindu Deities. Molela is known in the area as a 'potters village' as there are about 30 families
from the Kumhar caste producing pottery. It produces a range of pottery goods , from devotional plaques to
large panels depicting rural village scenes and smaller items such as temple hand bells and domestic ware.
Work is available mainly from the village.
Two local clays are used - Nada, a coarse black clay with a high sand grog and Alu, a finer gray clay used for
throwing. The two clays are mixed together in equal parts with the addition of 20% dried and sifted donkey dung,
which helps to disperse the heat through the plaque and lesson the thermal shock during firing.
Udai wedges the clay with his feet, then kneads it by hand into a round ball ready for use. In the courtyard of his work shop he works on the floor, which has been dusted with dung. The clay is flattened and smoothed with a bevelled wooden tool into a slab 15cm thick.
Then lal Kumhar cuts out the shape of the plaque, assembling the top pelmet and sides, adds a coil of clay to form the outline of the horse on which Durga is mounted, then onto the outline pinches its body, following which the figure of Durga astride the horse is created in the same way. Then he moves to the finer details and finally adds the filials. the whole process takes an hour and a half.
After drying in the open air the plaques are fired in an Awara, a circular open kiln, constructed from brick. it is 1.5m high and 2.0m in diameter. The work is loaded onto steel bars that are supported on brick peers leaving a 60cm fire chamber below. Up to 30 panels are fired at once and the kiln is sealed by 3 layers of pottery shards and fired for about 6 hours at 600-700 degrees centigrade. (extract from Ceramic Review Issue 213)
Udai lal Kumhar's family has lived in the small town of Molela, fifty
km. north of Udaipur in southern Rajasthan for the past 15 generations.
Under the guidance of his father, Udai
began his apprenticeship at the age of 10. He was born in 1949.
He won the Rajasthan State Award for Master Craftsmen 1985 - 1986 for terracotta
He has visited many parts of the world demonstrating and showing his work, including Ireland, France, Australia, the USA and United Kingdom.
He has shown work at the LFletcher Challenge in New Zealand (1991/1992) and demonstrated at the International Ceramics Fair in Wales in 2003.
His work is in many national collections in India and also Internationally.