Craftsman works to spread the fame of Bat Trang pottery hinh anh 1Skillful hands of artisan Pham Anh Dao (Photo: My Trinh/Vietnamplus)

Hanoi (VNA) - All artisans in Bat Trang Village have admired Pham Anh Dao for his strong will to stick to traditional ceramic skills.

They have considered him as an active descendant of the handicraft village’s ancestors. He works to revive the traditional skills to create unique products while many households have applied industrial assembly lines for mass production.

Dao’s workshop is located in the middle of the old village. Visiting him, one may find him losing himself in his work.

Born as a 1.5kg baby together with a twin brother, he was fairly weak and had to take lot of antibiotics, which resulted in an ear-impairment.

He could not speak until he was seven and found it hard to study at school.

At 17, he worked as a worker at Bat Trang Ceramic Factory, where he learned a lot of techniques. Within a year, he could do difficult tasks that had often been done by well-experienced workers.

He then decided to open his own workshop to create in his own way.

While neighbours applied mass assembly lines to turn out thousands of products everyday, he made only few hundred items every month.

Yet his products were unique, none was similar to another.

He could sit for hours shaping clay, and making glazes in his own way.

Craftsman works to spread the fame of Bat Trang pottery hinh anh 2Artisan Pham Anh Dao (Photo: My Trinh/Vietnamplus)

Many Japanese architects, who worked nearby at the Thanh Tri Bridge construction site, often visited the village and were interested in his hand-made products

Domestic orders also started flowing to his workshop, and pieces were sold all over the country.

“I was extremely worried when we first opened our workshop in the 1980s,” recalled Nguyen My Trinh, Dao’s wife, who is also his “speaker”, “marketing, sales assistant” and everything. “At that time, all ceramic producers in the village shifted to mass production, and hand-made products were not appreciated by customers as before.”

Domestic products were also “attacked” by cheap Chinese ceramics. The couple hardly made ends meet with their small-scale production.

“I know while heating the ovens, he thought very deeply of ways to ’rescue’ our family from poverty while sticking to the traditional making process,” Trinh said.

"More than once, I told him to change his mind and set up industrial assembly lines but he refused, saying: ’I will not change to other ways, only the traditional one’."

Craftsman works to spread the fame of Bat Trang pottery hinh anh 3Inside Pham Anh Dao’s workshop (Photo: Xuan Mai/Vietnamplus)

Seeing his strong will, Trinh supported him at work. They had no money to hire workers, so she did all the subordinate work while Dao fulfilled the tasks of shaping, drawing and glazing.

Dao has tried to make the brown flowery glaze of 11-14th century, the blue and white glaze of 15th century as well as crackleware of 17th century.

Trinh said sometimes he got up at midnight and worked on a design that he suddenly had in his mind for fear that he would forget it the next morning.

In 2010 his workshop fulfilled a task that many generations of artisans in the village would dream to achieve: the making of a pair of giant jars by hand. Each measures nearly 2m in height; 1.2m in width, and 500kg in weight.

The jars were covered with ancient crackle glaze. They were exhibited in downtown Ha Noi during the 1,000th anniversary of Ha Noi City in 2010, and were just auctioned in May this year at 6 billion VND (267,000 USD).

“Dao is a rare artisan in our village, who works with his great passion,” said Le Huy Thanh, vice chairman of the Ha Noi Ceramics Association. “In the past few years, more and more well-to-do people prefer hand made ceramic products rather than industrial products as in previous decades.”

Craftsman works to spread the fame of Bat Trang pottery hinh anh 4Pham Anh Dao’ showroom in the centre of Bat Trang market (Photo: My Trinh/Vietnamplus)

The couple’s patience resulted in delicate products with the trademark Dao Trinh Ceramics being more and more appreciated. They have sold more products and could afford to build a better house and workshop.

“Hand-made products requires more labour and we charge at a higher price,” Trinh said. “Every year, we sign contracts worth nearly 1 billion VND to domestic and overseas customers.”

Trinh said she exchanged with customers mainly through email.

“Customers just figure out their ideas for the products. We design models, and send back to them. When they agree with the models, we start producing,” she said.

“Yet Dao prefers creativity,” she said. “He sometimes changes his mind about the designs and doesn’t follow the order, which has brought us no end of troubles with hard customers.”

Nowadays, there are more and more hand-made ceramic workshops in the village inspired by Dao’s family.

"Dao has been the first artisan to revive the traditional way of making ceramic wares after decades of neglect," admitted Dao Xuan Hung, chairman of the Bat Trang Commune People’s Committee./.

VNA