Meet the Makers : Our Earthenware from Ho Chi Minh City

Meet the Makers : Our Earthenware from Ho Chi Minh City

by Jennifer Sampson 21.10.2022

Meet the makers: Earthenware artisans in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Hand painting is a valued skill

The factory we make our earthenware with is situated outside of Ho Chi Minh City and is probably the largest in terms of workforce and square meterage. A cavernous space that houses many kilns, each area is designated for a different purpose. R&D, glazing, finishing, testing, boxing and more. Although the workforce may be large, the amount of skilled workers that can hand paint is still small. Every year during the TET holiday — where workers travel back to their province to celebrate with their families — it becomes difficult to lure workers back to the factory and away from their loved ones. So skilled hand painters are very valued and still few in the scheme of the workers. 

“Smile everytime you walk by” is the ethos behind our designs. Our range of earthenware ceramics came from the desire to create shapes that cannot be produced on the potter’s wheel. Being moulded, the playing field becomes much bigger in terms of shape. In addition each factory uses a different clay as its specialty. So by working with a new factory, all of a sudden a bisque-coloured fish shaped planter with hand-painted stripes is a design option! Very exciting to us ceramics obsessives. 

The story behind our face vases

The design that really opened up the potential with these makers were the faces. A bisque mould is cast and then typically a stencil is applied to the body for the painters to follow the design of the body in glaze. It’s then handed to the small group of skilled artisans — perhaps only one or two workers are trusted to paint the face and hair. The rejection rate for these designs is very high and a lot of factories refuse to do facial designs for this reason. One slip of the brush and an eyeball becomes cross eyed, that piece is rejected! Also a slight mark or wonky eye brow is very visible on these designs so one must remember these are handmade items. These are not perfect machine-made products. The imperfections in our faces are to be celebrated.

There is something intangibly engaging with our faces range: the combination of bisque clay with beautiful hand painted faces, coupled with glossy glazed design on the body. We are in awe of the ability and scope of our skilled makers and are excited to continue working with them across new concepts. Looking from the showroom down to the factory floor, we see rows of bisque-fired pottery, awaiting the addition of the colourful glazes and riotous designs to decorate the clay. We love taking these simple forms to the next level; from basic to elaborate and special. 

It’s all about the hand-painted details

Even the smallest details have been carefully considered. We debate every single design detail. Is her nose too sharp? Are his eyebrows too thick? We research which of Elton's glasses were his best and the length of Cleopatra's hair. Each freckle is hand painted, each flower uniquely placed. That’s why sometimes you'll get a smudge on a cheek or a face with missing eyelashes. Hey we are sorry and can change it for you no problems. Maybe that hand painter was up with his baby the night before, is sleep deprived and really needed that coffee break. But we reckon that's what sets our original faces apart from the rest out there: humanity. We know it's what will keep them close to hearts for years to come and makes them so special.