Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pottery Making in Batrang

All the pottery that we sell in the store is handmade. These are some of the photos we took in a small warehouse in Batrang, North Vietnam. The flowers are painted by hand and after it cools off from the kiln. After the artwork is applied the pieces are fired a second time giving the distinctive Batrang patterns.
Although we have pottery from many countries and makers Batrang is always a great place to go, it has been for more than 900 years. They began making pottery around 1000 AD. In an early and successful attempt at industrial espionage two Vietnamese Diplomats posted in China returned home. On the way they stayed for two years (travel was more leisurely then!) in a region of China famous for their fine work. They brought the knowledge home with them and Batrang began a long history of fine ceramics.

In such a small village there are close to 50 different companies, each making everything from traditional designs which tend to be very similar to designs fully unique and cutting edge which give each maker an identity which stands alone.

Our main supplier from Batrang asked me if I would like to see her factory. I had been there several times over years but never been invited to the place where she made all her goods. She handed me a helmet and I jumped onto the back of her motorbike and off we went, ripping down 900 year old alleys almost too small for a car to pass. Even if the alley had been a broad thoroughfare, our driver/agent/translator, Hong Minh was not one to place his new BMW in harms way. Needless to say, we beat everyone to the factory. On the ride over I saw 100s of half spheres lining the walls of the lanes. When we arrived and I was ushered up into an ancient brick building, only then did it dawn on me that these were dung drying to be used as fuel. Fitting as the kiln and building were what is known in the industry as "Old". I will try not to be too technical but sometimes you just have to. The old kiln was being used to bake larger outdoor pots. Down one flight was a very modern set of high speed wheels used to produce uniform turned bowls for various uses. Down one further floor to ground level was a computer operated, stainless steel, large carts on railroad type tracks kiln which was just too cool in this very traditional brick building. This was where the elegant sushi plates and tea sets were being made. Pieces made in a building hundreds of years old but headed out to a very modern world, to Japan, Europe, the US, Australia, virtually every where. Quite a day for us indeed.

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