Handy clay used for making the traditional pottery of Manipur is known as Leimarombi Chaphu Leibak. This peculiar type of clay is available only in Thongjao area in the Thoubal District of Manipur. Although, there are places where clay is available for making the pottery in other parts of the state, they are mostly mixed with minerals which is not suitable for making the unique kind of handmade Leimaram Pottery. If the pot is made with more portions of ferrus and mineral content, it is not durable and often breaks before or after firing.
The best quality of clay popularly known as the handy-clay is collected after digging 5 feet deep in the ground. In most of the cases, appropriate quality of these kinds of clay could only be collected from two or three layers when it reaches the level of handy and loam clay. The collected clays are exposed to the sunlight for about a week so that impurities and other foreign contents get oxidised. After this process, it is mixed with water to soften and continuously beaten with the help of pucking stick locally known as Leipak Shuk. During this process, it is mixed with fine quality of river sand at different interval so as to make the pot strong and hard. The kneaded clay is than placed on a wooden plank known as Phunoi Upak. Rubbing with hands, the process of making pottery is done by putting upon the wooden stand taking the clay half a feet in circumference known as Lekshum. It is followed by the process of shaping with hand continuously till it comes to a proper shape and forms. After attaining the desirable shape, it is rubbed with a piece of cloth soaked with water and is known as Phunal Phadi. The pots which are ready for onward process of firing is than placed to a suitable place to dry for 2 to 3 days.
The next process is shaping accurately with the help of a round stone placing inside the pot and beating and flapping it from the outer surface with the help of a tool locally known as Phuchei. Usually, a round and soft stone of about 1 and half Kg in weight is chosen to be suitable for this process. Further, the pot is rubbed and polished with the help of Kang (a kind of seed of local creeper).
The final process is firing the pots. Straws in appropriate quantity are spread on the ground above which the pots are placed. Many more bundles of straws are stuffed in the surroundings of the pots. It is than covered with ashes and mud entirely leaving a small hole for burning. After setting fire, the burning process starts in a very slow and steady way. The baking is allowed to last for about two to three days so that the pots get properly fired and baked.
Information provided by: Smt. L. Gulamjat Devi, Potter