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Breathing ancient life into modern Cham pottery

As the owner of a factory, Su Thi Kieu Lan wishes she could make more ceramic products, as artistic Cham ceramics of her village, Bau Truc, in Ninh Phuoc district, Ninh Thuan province are much in demand. Customers are considered a real necessity for people in Bau Truc, an age-old traditional craft village, in a difficult time for such traditional crafts.

Kieu Lan is the only artisan who was invited to the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology for performance when Queen of Norway Sonja and her entourage came to visit the museum in December 2004. Kieu Lan said this was not the first time she was invited to the museum. Earlier, the museum had asked her to perform for research purpose and also restore some ceramic objects.

Despite being the longest-standing ceramic village in the region, now there are not many artisans left. Among the few young artisans, 29 year old Kieu Lan is the youngest. However, she is the most skillful one in the village in making artistic Cham ceramics in an ancient style which are now the favourite of many customers. To gain such a success, Kieu Lan has thought hard on the craft.

She started to learn the craft at the age of 13, but then Kieu Lan changed her mind and decided to learn to become a tailor as she didn’t see any future for the pottery craft. “ Ten years ago, I didn’t think there would be a day I would turn back to the traditional craft. There is some thing very sacred that makes me come back to clay and flame.” Kieu Lan said. And in 1998, Kieu Lan recommenced with ceramics though her garment shop had a large number of customers by then.

It’s was a good luck for Kieu Lan that it was not a long time after she came back to the craft, her village started the production of artistic ceramics. This was a way out for the villagers and also for Kieu Lan. Their products had gradually become favourites of people in Ho Chi Minh City. Not being self-satisfied with it, Kieu Lan has tried to look for her own style in her products. From the traditional samples of the village, Kieu Lan has created new artistic products with special characters. Kieu Lan said “The soul of Bau Truc ceramics is shown in the way that each product has a particular shape. It seems that there will never be balanced shape products. The ceramic skin is not totally smooth and the colour and design are normally natural.”

After nearly four years Bau Truc ceramic products have been brought to and accepted in the market and this can’t be unable to mention to efforts by young artisan Kieu Lan.

ND - (08/12/2004)

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