Southern ceramic kilns work overtime as Year of the Mouse nears

By Quynh Tran   January 5, 2020 | 07:07 pm GMT+7

Ceramic workshops in the southern province of Binh Duong are busy making mouse statues for the upcoming Lunar Year of the Mouse.

The Lunar new year celebration, Tet closing in means a busy time for ceramic kilns in Tan Uyen Town in Binh Duong. Nguyen Hong Hop, an owner of a pottery factory, pours ceramic into mouse-shaped molds.  Every two months before Tet, I make molds shaped like the zodiac animal of the year. This year, I am using Mickey mouse and brass mouse holding money, said Hop.

Weeks before the Lunar New Year, or Tet, is the busiest time for ceramic kilns in Tan Uyen Town in Binh Duong.

Nguyen Hong Hop, the owner of a pottery factory, pours clay into mouse-shaped molds. "Every year two months before Tet I make molds shaped like the zodiac animal of the [upcoming] year. This year I am using Mickey Mouse and the brass mouse holding money," she says.

For 15 years, Hops family has lived and worked at the 2,500-square-meter factory specializing in piggy bank production. My workshop makes about 700 products every day, during Tet we produce double that number. Dozens of workers work until late, said a female worker from the northeast province of Thai Nguyen.

For 15 years her family has lived and worked in the workshop, which makes piggy banks. "Our workshop makes about 700 items every day, and for Tet we produce double that number. Dozens of workers work until late," Hop, from the northern province of Thai Nguyen, adds.

Tran Van Manh, 50 a worker at Hops factory shovels clay into a mixer. Clay, water, and glue are put together and mixed. The clay is bought in Ben Cat district in Binh Duong. It has a strong and smooth texture, very suitable for pottery making.  Every day, I have to mix more than a ton of clay. Often newcomers do this job, said Manh, who has been in the pottery making for two years.

Tran Van Manh, 50, a worker at Hop's factory, shovels clay into a mixer. Clay, water and glue are put together and mixed. The clay, bought in Ben Cat District in Binh Duong, is strong and smooth, ideal for pottery making.

Manh, who has been in the pottery business for two years, says: "Every day I have to mix more than a ton of clay. Often newcomers do this work."

After more than an hour of sun exposure, the statues are shaped to the desired form and removed from the mold. The worker then will use a knife to remove the excess clay.

After more than an hour of exposure to the sun, the statues are removed from the mold. Workers then use a knife to scrape off excess clay.

The products are dried under the sun for two hours before being bisque fired.

The products are then dried under the sun for two more hours before being fired.

A worker brings the ceramic mice into the kiln.

A worker brings ceramic mice into the kiln.

Hop’s husband Le Quang Loi, 48, arranged the products in the kiln. They need to be heated for about 10 hours. On average, a kiln can hold 3,000 products a day, Loi said.

Hop’s husband, Le Quang Loi, 48, arranges the products in the kiln. He says: "They need to be fired for about 10 hours. A kiln holds 3,000 products on average."

Nguyen Van Quyet responsible for setting firewood for the kiln said: Doing this job is quite extreme, working under the sun and in the boiling kiln. I earn VND5 million a month ($216), Quyet said.  Most of workers in the pottery kilns in Tan Uyen town come from the northern regions like Hanoi, Thai Nguyen, Hai Duong ...

Nguyen Van Quyet, who is responsible for maintaining the fire in the kiln, says: "This job is quite extreme under the sun and in the boiling kiln. I earn VND5 million ($216) a month."

Most workers in pottery kilns in Tan Uyen come from northern localities like Hanoi, Thai Nguyen and Hai Duong.

After the hardening process, the bisques are brought to workshops in Thuan An town in Binh Duong for decoration. Vo Thi Thanh Hang, 42 years old said about 2,000 products are brought here every day.  Hang paints each mouse in gold colour. The main commodity is still piggy bank because it is popular. This year, mouse is popular because of Tet, she said.

After being taken out of the kiln, the ceramic items are brought to workshops in the nearby Thuan An Town for decoration.

Vo Thi Thanh Hang, 42, says 2,000 pieces are brought there every day. She paints each mouse golden. "The main product is still the piggy bank because it is popular. This year the mouse is popular because of Tet."

The most common paint is the powder kind because it has a strong adhesion and dries quickly. Glitter is applied after the coat of paint. Hang said the most difficult stage is to brush the paint around the eyes, nose, beard which requires skillful hands.

Color powder is used because it has strong adhesion and dries quickly. Glitter is applied after the coat of paint.

Hang says the most difficult task is to paint around the eyes, nose and beard and it requires skillful hands.

A gold mouse statue costs from VND30,000 to 80,000 ($1.3-3.5) depending on the size.

A gold mouse statue costs VND30,000-80,000 ($1.3-3.5) depending on the size.

Merchant Doan Van Het loads his bike with statues to sell in Ho Chi Minh City.  According to the owners, domestic demands for these kinds of products come from the southern and central provinces, while some are exported to Laos and Cambodia.

Doan Van Het, a hawker, loads his bike with statues to sell in Ho Chi Minh City.

According to kiln owners, demand for these kinds of products is mainly in southern and central provinces, while some are exported to Laos and Cambodia.

The country will enjoy a seven-day holiday for the Tet festival, staring January 23, two days before the Lunar New Year.

 
 
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