TRADITIONALLY the udu is hand-made by using what is known as the 'pinch and coil' technique. The potter first takes a lump of clay and places it on a flat surface. She (and it is usually a woman) then uses her fist to pound it into a base for the pot-shaped instrument. Next, she takes another lump and, by rolling it between her hands, shapes it into a long sausage. This shape is then pinched onto and coiled around the base.
The potter does not use a conventional potter’s wheel, but instead uses the neck and lip of an old discarded pot. This she places on the floor in front of her to support the udu she is building, and to turn it as she adds more coils.
The neck is raised from the basic round shape of the udu, and an out-turned lip completes the opening at the top. There are two types of udu. The larger type is left with just the opening at the top. The smaller variety has an extra circular opening on the side. This hole is created simply by drawing a circle with a sharp object and cutting it out.
Decorating the udu is optional. Sometimes the potter will apply traditional symbols on the body of the instrument. A common finish involves rolling a plaited bit of palm leaf on the damp clay to leave a serrated texture.
The udu is then left in the hot sun to dry. The next day it is fired in an open fire using local woods. Fresh branches are picked and placed over the fire to control the temperature. At the appropriate time the udu is removed and left to cool.