Pottery is a prehistoric craft, found among archaeological artifacts of pre-literate cultures, with the oldest known examples dating back earlier than 20,000 BCE. The main types of pottery include earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain, but the earliest forms of pottery were made from clay.

By around 3000 BCE, potters began using the slow potter’s wheel, a small platform made of wood that spins. This helped them avoid having to walk around the pot; instead, the pot sat on the platform and spun for them. By 2000 BCE, a fast wheel had replaced the slow one, so a good potter could make a pot in one minute. These pots, however, were hand-formed and undecorated. The addition of decorative touches, such as painting and curving, emerged throughout the years not only in China, but also in Greece, Egypt, Africa, Japan, Iran, Turkey, and India.

It is difficult to trace the date and site of the first pottery made in Bhutan, but it is thought to have come from Gonsar in Punakha. In 2005, when the legacy of pottery was almost vanishing due to lack of interest among the community, Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck founded the Centre of Pottery in Langthel, Trongsa, in order to preserve this ancient craft. This centre exists to help the local Monpa community, and indeed many Monpas are making their livelihoods by making and selling pots.

38-year-old Karma Dorji, who is funded by the Tarayana Foundation, is the head potter at the Centre and has been working there almost 10 years. He was trained at the Folk Heritage Museum in Kawa Jangsa, Thimphu.

The process of pottery

The following process of creating a clay pot comes from observation and an interview conducted while Karma Dorji was turning a pot. First off, dry red earth is transported in huge quantities by truck from Tana, Punakha; both the purchase of the earth and the transportation are paid for by the Tarayana Foundation.

  • Crush the earth into powder with a small hammer, and remove any small stones.
  • Mix the earth with water, and knead it on a round board until it becomes a soft cake.
  • By hand, mould and shape the mixture into a pot, with the pot remaining stationary and the potter moving around it.
  • Polish the pot with a wet cloth.
  • Dry the pot in the sun at least for two hours.
  • Shape the inside and round the bottom using locally made wooden tools.
  • Dry the pot again for another two days.
  • Fire the bulk of 50 to 60 pieces together in a firepit for four hours. Only after firing the object will it be called pottery.
  • Apply a sealing wax made of hot stic lac (jatsoe) on both the inside and outside of the pot.


Ms Phuentso Wangmo, supervisor of the centre
Karma Dorji, head potter
Ugyen Dolma, potter
Aum Tsuendu Choden, head weaver at the centre for nettle textiles, Tarayana Foundation, Bayling, Langthel, Trongsa


Pottery. (2 August 2011). In Wikipedia online. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pottery
The traditional art of pottery in Bhutan. National Library, Thimphu: 2011. (in Dzongkha rang lugs rdzabzo rig pa’irnambshad)

Researcher & Photographer

Tenzin Dorji, Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, 2015

(Click on the Thumbnails to view the Photo Gallery)