The making of clay pots in Hon Dat district, the Mekong delta province of Kien Giang, had been viewed by many locals as a means of living in the between-crop period. It is, however, struggling for its strong existance.

Traditionally, the craft focused on making clay pots only. Today, local artisans produce all kinds of kitchen utensils, using clay as the main material.

The making of clay pots is said to have begun in Hon Dat district in the twentieth century and the founder of the craft was a Khmer. It was performed by farmers after harvest time as another way of making a living.

Vu Thi Soi recalled that she has engaged in this business since she was ten, following in his father’s footsteps. And now, her children do the same.

The job seems to be easy at first. However, the makers said the work requires a great deal of experience, technical skills, and meticulous attention for creating nice products.

The main material – clay - is available in Hon Dat, the name of which means ‘Clod of Earth’. It must be smooth, solid, heat resistant and adhesive.

Many steps are needed to make a complete product, including selecting clay, kneading, shaping it, and then polishing and patterning.

After these steps, the products are sun-baked for about a week or 10 days and then fired in rice husk-fueled kilns.

Vu Trong Nho, a clay-pot maker in Hon Dat township, said the baking steps decide the colour of products. If products are burnt by dry rice husks, they will have bright red.

In the past, the work was operated manually. Today, it is assisted by clay blending machines.

Local workers maintain that their earthenware is authentic, helping users reminisce about the products made in the old days.

However, in recent years, the development of metalwork has affected the consumption of such products, once popular throughout the southern region and its neighbouring areas.

In the past, Vu Trong Nho’s workshop sold around 10,000 products a month but now it sells only half the amount.

“Those were the days when all 10 households in this village engaged in making clay pots. Today, many workers quit and seek other jobs,” said Nho.

Although the demand for reddish-brown products has decreased, clay pots and clay stoves are still found on streets.

Local people are doing their best to preserve the traditional craft.-VNA