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Artist goes potty preserving village craft

Huong Canh Pottery Village in Vinh Phuc Province is in danger of sinking into oblivion.

While many people cannot continue with the ancient craft, artisan Nguyen Hong Quang is patient in fulfilling his dream of revitalising it.

Artisan Nguyễn Hồng Quang works hard on his ceramic products. — Photo qdnd.vn

Born and raised in the village with a tradition of more than 300 years of pottery making, Quang has a unique passion for clay products.

Though he loves pottery, he never wanted to make it in the usual way. He chose to study at the faculty of sculpture at the Hà Nội University of Industrial Fine Arts to expand his knowledge of ceramics.

After graduating, Quang returned to his hometown to fulfil his dream and decided on artistic pottery. It is not only his favourite craft but also a responsibility he feels he has toward his homeland to preserve and develop the traditional craft.

"All things have ups and downs. Sometimes they are measured in grey matter, sweat and even tears. And artistic ceramics is the path I have chosen as I love pottery and this land," Quang said.

Hương Canh Village is nationally renowned for the quality of its clay jars, pots, bowls and cups. However, Quang found that if he still followed the traditional path of villagers of making simple household goods, it would be tough to compete. Currently, art ceramic products are popular because they have higher cultural and aesthetic values and are more valuable.

"In my parents' time, a kilo of clay cost only VNĐ15,000, but I couldn't sell like that. As clay is a resource, it is limited and will eventually run out, so my responsibility is to turn it into products that sell for a high price," Quang said.

According to Quang, reviving a pottery village is very difficult as older people can no longer follow the job, and young people are less passionate. Therefore, he has researched and made ceramic products with high quality and economic efficiency. He believes that he will convince people to believe and follow him if he succeeds.

The 42-year-old artisan has invested in a gas furnace. This reduces environmental pollution and improves productivity because it can fire many products at the same time.

With this technology, the workshop's division of labour has many differences compared to before. The whole village mainly produced large-sized ceramic products in the past, but now Quang's workshop focuses on small-sized items and requires each worker to perform all the production steps.

Potteries in Quang's workshop are mainly handmade. On average, a worker can make five products a day.

Currently, each piece has an average price of VNĐ300,000 to 500,000. And for ceramic products ordered by foreign customers, the value is up to several million đồng.

Quang is very proud of his hometown's products. Hương Canh potteries are made with the typical local clay, taken from 8m below the ground.

The clay has a special green colour which turns into dark reddish-brown under high temperatures. Yet, the most distinguishing feature of Hương Canh's green clay lies in its ability to shrink at high heat.

The highlight that makes Hương Canh pottery special is the clay that has a special green colour which turns into dark reddish-brown under high temperatures. Photo thuonghieuvaphapluat.vn

In addition, Hương Canh pottery does not use a glaze because it is made from sediment clay with molecules that tightly join together to form a strong, waterproof barrier.

"The price of Hương Canh ceramics is higher than other products, but ceramic lovers will understand that the price is appropriate for the effort the artisans put into the products," Quang said.

Thanks to Quang, Hương Canh pottery has its brand name in many provinces and cities and has been present in many high-end markets such as Japan and South Korea.

Hương Canh Pottery Village’s products. — Photo thuonghieuvaphapluat.vn

Quang's initial successes confirmed his choice was right but also provided a good sign in the journey of preserving and promoting the traditional craft village.

Aside from his many titles such as national excellent craftsman, what Quang appreciates the most is the favour and admiration he receives from many artisans and lovers of pottery.

The artisan intends to replicate the model of artistic ceramic production in the village, creating Hương Canh ceramic products of high quality for international markets to make the village brand stand the test of time.

Source: VNS

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