How to Make a Diwali (Diya) Lamp with Clay at home

Before we start let me make this clear that making earthen/clay vessels is not a one day thing and you will need to practise it just like you practise riding a two wheeler. To make vessels from clay you will be needing three things:

  • Spinning wheel
  • Clay
  • Practise and interest!

Source

How to get a spinning wheel

You can either buy a spinning wheel from a market or else make it the way I have discussed later in this article. If you wish to buy it I would suggest going for an electric spinning wheel. It is easy to use and manage and best of beginners If you wish to make a spinning wheel then we will need to go into a bit of engineering. The items you will need to make a spinning wheel are:

Electric motor of around 200 rpm. The power required will be dependent of the weight of the wheel you chose. While buying it you can ask the shopkeeper for an idea by showing them the wheel and they will be able to guide you. Make sure to have a interlock system so that the shaft of the motor can rotate the wheel. The shaft should not come out of the wheel and should be strong enough to be able to support the wheel by itself.

  • Potter's wheel or any wheel which can rotate on the motor shaft and is smooth enough with the appropriate size.
  • A container to surround the area around the wheel so that the clay which is thrown away from the wheel doesn't make a mess. Dry clay is quite hard to remove so I would seriously suggest you to find one such container. The height of the container should be only a little higher than the height of the wheel after it is attached to the motor shaft.

Place the motor on a surface with the shaft facing upwards and fix it with the surface. Use something so that you can spinning wheel set up remains mobile. Take the container and make a hole so that the shaft fits through it. Now mount the wheel on it and take care to have minimum friction between the container and the wheel.

How to select Clay for pottery

Pottery clay. It is better to buy the clay for this purpose. However, if you would like to get it at home then you should need to search for clay soil in your garden. When I tried this method it took 6 days to prepare the clay. So I would seriously suggest to buy the clay from the market to avoid that much work.

But if you are decided to find you own clay then here are the steps:

  1. Get some soil which is not sandy. Clean the soil with a mesh as to remove any organic matter or pebbles or stones from the soil.
  2. The soil below the topsoil is best for this purpose. It will be devoid of debris or organic matter like leaves and roots.
  3. Take the sifted material is a bucket and fill with two thirds with water. Take a eight cup of liquid dish soap and add it to the bucket. Now stir it using an electric drill. This process it done for sedimentation of the soil. Leave the solution for 24 hours.
  4. The top layer of the soil in the bucket will be of clay. To siphon it off use a hose pipe. Take a hose pipe of a few feet and fill it with water. Now block the both ends with water still in it and put one end just touching the top layer of soil in the water filled bucket. Release the other end of the hose in a bucket placed at a height lower than the upper end of the hose. By doing this you are creating a suction which will siphon off the clay settled at the top to the other bucket. Keep an eye of the process so that the fine sand which is settled at the bottom of the bucket does not get sucked up by the hose.
  5. Repeat this process everyday with the same soil till it is giving clay or add more sifted soil on the top of the bucket if you need more clay.
  6. The clay can now be allowed to dry or preferably should be air dried for better performance during pottery.

After your spinning wheel is ready it is now time to start making the earthen lamp (Diya in India). First step in pottery is learning Wheel Throwing. It means making a wedge of clay exactly in the centre of the wheel without any air bubbles.

But before this you need to condition the wheel. Wet the wheel for 1-2 hours. Now spin the wheel and take a knife or tin edged tool and touch it to the spinning wheel while it is running to remove any dirt from it. Clean the wheel with a cloth and after that with a damp sponge wet the surface of the wheel. Take care that you only need to make the surface of the wheel damp, there should not be any standing water of the surface.

Now is the time to throw the clay on the wheel. Take a good amount of clay in your hand and with full force aim for the centre of the wheel while it is running at a slow speed. The clay should stick to the surface of the wheel so give as much force to the clay as possible.

Now with the wheel spinning at a medium speed force the clay into a cone surface by using your hands. Wet your hands and push the clay at the bottom with your thumbs and use other fingers to manage the clay in between and at the top.

You can read more detailed instructions to use pottery wheel at jhpottery.

When the clay is perfectly centred now is the time to give it the shape. The trick is to press one thumb in between to make the hollow of the lantern and supporting the outside with your fingers. The video shows how an Indian potter is making the Diyas with great efficiency. When you have given the shape to the lantern you can remove it from the clay mount using a thread. Place the thread near the bottom and as the wheel spins bring it near to the mud slowly and slowly till the Diya is completely removed from the clay.

Now take a spoon and with its back end tap the clay piece to make the piece smooth.

Making of Diwali Diya

Now take a spoon and with its back end tap the clay piece to make the piece smooth.

Now the last step is to heat the prepared lamp. First of all you should know that a food cooking oven won't work for this. The best method is a home made kiln. Dig a hole in soil and make a brick wall inside. You don't need to cement it, only take care that there is least moisture in the soil or the bricks. Buy a lot of sawdust. Place a little saw dust to make the surface for the kiln. Now place the clay lamp inside the kiln, each at some distance from one another. Cover the first layer of pieces with sawdust and place the second layer over it. Fill the kiln till top and with some woods ignite the kiln from the top. The kiln will remain hot for around 10-12 hours and then you can take out the lamps and use them as you wish.

Pottery is something on which probably no one can write a detailed tutorial. It is somewhat hit and trial method but nothing much difficult. With a little practise it is very easy to prepare Diwali Diya or earthen lamps at home.

Heating clay piece in kiln

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