Saturday, October 31, 2015

Vicki Finkel in Vietnam with Master Potters

Vietnam is a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables.
A shopper at a local market selects fresh picks.

Delicious and colorful dragonfruit entice the eye.

While farmers have harvested and fed the country for ages, ceramicists have produced and supplied clay vessels for food.   

Recently made clay pieces drying outside a studio in Bat Trang, a pottery village about 12 km, south of Hanoi, along the Red River.

Bat Trang's narrow alleys and streets have housed pottery studios since the 14th century, and I was fortunate to work and study with some of the master potters here.  
Walking through the historic narrow throughways of Bat Trang.

Large ceramic urns drying outside a potter's home in Bat Trang.

Finished pieces transported in town.

And displayed for sale.

A ceramic store in Bat Trang. 

Local potters I spent time with were extremely welcoming.

Vicki working with a master Vietnamese clay artist in his Bat Trang studio. 

The entrance to one potter's home atelier.

Where he tirelessly works at his vast production of ceramic wares.

Including clay bottles.

Preparing them to be fired in his large gas kiln.

While most potters in Bat Trang work in large scale, often using clay molds, some artisans continue to make pieces individually by hand, or even by foot.

A local potter uses his feet to compress clay into flat tile forms.

He then creates impressive scenes on the clay.

Forming large wall hangings.

Others continue to use their hands to manually turn wheels upon which clay vessels are made. 

Teamwork involved here, with one man sitting and turning the wheel so that his standing partner can work and build up the wall of this large vessel. 

A gorgeous finished piece completed at this Bat Trang studio.

Teapots drying outside.

Completed ones, in the Bat Trang signature blue glazing on sale in a shop. 

Potters work meticulously and arduously over individual pieces. 

A master potter laboring on his form made on an electric potter's wheel. 

He uses a saucer to smooth and compress the clay. 

Work drying in his studio.

At the end of a long day at the studio, sports provides some fun and unwinding. 
A local evening volleyball game.

The historic town of Bat Trang is not the only ceramics production site in Vietnam. 
A Bat Trang alley.

Unique styles of ceramic production are seen throughout the country. 
A few kilometers from Hoi An town, in a small pottery village, a woman stands and kicks a potter's wheel while she simultaneously prepares (wedges) clay to be used on the wheel by her colleague, who crouches and works clay into a finished form on the wheel. 

In the same town, a woman carves clay forms into lanterns.

While new clay pieces are being produced for use every day in Vietnam, old vessels have been transformed into architectural structures. 

In a monastery outside of Hue, this structure is comprised of pottery shards.

Close-up of remnants of clay vessels in one of the columns. 

Another segment of a nearby structure at the monastery.

A detail of broken plates, cups, and bowls used in the construction. 

Hue, an earlier capital of Vietnam, is strewn with historic sites that use shards as building material.

The impressive Tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh, built from 1920-1931.

The Emperor Khai Dinh is interred inside beneath his statue, in an immense, ornate room adorned throughout with segments of past ceramic pieces.
Inside the stunning, ceramic-covered tomb of Khai Dinh, whose likeness sits atop a throne beneath which he is buried. 

Columns in the tomb, designs all created from clay shards. 

Detail of pottery segments combining to produce this dragon motif.