|Pottery products of the Cham people in Bau Truc Village.|
VietNamNet Bridge –
The art of Cham potters has worked like a charm for the Bau Truc trademark through all the vicissitudes of the market.
Survival is all due to the Cham, confirms Bau Truc Village People’s Committee chairman Dang Phan of the pottery that is sold out of the Phuoc Dan Commune of central Ninh Thuan Province’s Ninh Phuoc District.
Villager Phu Thi Ngui, 63, explains the effort this way: "Design, colour, size and style that meet customer demand are made possible by the combination of traditional and modern work methods," she says.
It has also lifted productivity.
But unlike mass production, each product is hand-made to become a distinct work of art fired with the creativity and skill of each craftsman.
"We diversify our products but each decoration and pattern is unique to the Cham," says Ngui.
Previously, Cham-made products were known for their everyday use - pots, large jars and vessels - but they lost their appeal after 1997 with the rise of plastic utensils.
The Cham craftsmen responded with a change in their production methods dividing their pottery into traditional and fine art.
The right clay
The high-quality unique pottery can only be made with clay from Bau Truc Village and then only by the Cham.
The alluvial soil from the Quao River provides rich smooth clay and fine clean sand.
The craftsman mix the two and then soften the clay until it’s pliable.
The potter’s shape their wares by hand rather than a wheel an use simple tools or shells and pressed flowers to decorate them.
Each pot is sun-dried for 4-6 hours and then fired.
The village patriarch checks each pot before it goes to market.
Merchants from the town of Phan Rang-Thap Cham travel to the village to buy the pots or the craftsmen deliver them to neighbouring Lam Dong, Binh Thuan provinces.
Their quick adaptation to market demand has enabled the villagers to use their traditional work to improve living standards.
Of 560 Cham households, 260 made pots in 2007, an increase of 125 households over 2006 when 80 per cent followed the pottery tradition.
The price of a traditional artefact ranges from VND15,000 to 20,000; a fine art product ranges from VND25,000 and VND50,000 and each household earns VND6-10 million (US$375 - 625) a month.
Dang Xem has become one of the district’s best known pottery shops.
It was started with VND20million ($1,250) and has 10-15 craftsmen.
The shop not only sells into the local markets but also meets orders from provinces such as highlands Dak Lak and southern Ba Ria - Vung Tau as well as Germany.
"My family can have a better life from pottery rather than farming," says Dang Xem craftsman Dong Dai. "I can send all my four daughters to school without a worry."
Villagers say pottery was introduced thousands of year ago by a couple they call Poklong Chanh.
"Our village is considered one of the country’s oldest craft villages," says Thuan-Trang pottery proprietor Phu Huu Minh Thuan.
The pottery welcomes from 50 to 100 international buyers of souvenirs each weekend.
Investment for the restoration of Bau Truc is not yet on the agenda.
Instead, the villagers intend to confine themselves to the success of their artefacts on both the domestic and international markets.
"Developing Bau Truc as a tourist destination would popularise the trademark outside the country," says Ninh Thuan’s Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Department’s social assistance manager Tran Van The.
"But first the village needs a certificate confirming that it’s the country’s oldest craft village."
A traditional house in the village has just been finished.
It was built with VND7bil ($437,500) from the Government in 2005 and will be used to display the unique pottery.
Source: Viet Nam News