On the way to Ha Long Bay, I got to make a stop at a ceramics factory. A guide walked me through every step of the process, from the mixing of the clay to the final glaze.
It was amazing to see the precision that went into this work! Every single piece is made by hand, from the mixing of the clay, the shaping of the dish, the etching of the pattern, and the painting of the design.
This woman’s job was to hand carve the spectacular swirling pattern on the the outside of each pot. I was amazed by her speed and accuracy. I can barely stay within the lines in a coloring book, but she effortlessly sketched elaborate designs into the curved sides of still wet clay day after day. It was really incredible to watch.
Rows of giant ovens baked the final product, making all the colors much more vibrant. While I was visiting the power went out (as it occasionally does in Vietnam) and work continued like normal. All the tools had a non-electric powering option as well. For example, the men turning the pots had foot pedals they could use to keep everything rotating when they lost electricity.
I was allowed to help with the painting of one of the small dishes. In the time it took me to color in the pre-painted black lines, the woman next to me had turned out a half-dozen beautiful dishes.