Man restoring ancient pottery in Ninh Binh's village

Monday, 2017-05-29 17:55:28
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The pottery workshop of Meritorious Artisan Pham Van Vang (in white)
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NDO – Since 2007, meritorious Artisan Pham Van Vang from Bach Lien village, Yen Thanh commune, Yen Mo district, in the northern province of Ninh Binh, has nurtured the idea of restoring the ancient local Bo Bat pottery craft, an art which had been lost for around ten centuries. With unremitting efforts, he has successfully brought these pottery products to both domestic and international markets.

According to many historical documents, Bo Bat pottery in Bach Lien village had been strongly developed during the tenth century. After King Ly Cong Uan moved the royal capital from Hoa Lu (now Ninh Binh) to Thang Long (now Hanoi) in 1010, many families in the village also moved and settled in the riverside area, forming what has become the famous Bat Trang pottery village Therefore, the art of Bo Bat pottery had been lost.

Pursuing a dream of establishing his own career

The spread of Bo Bat pottery products in both domestic and international markets surprised many people, with the young man’s spirit overcoming all difficulties. Artisan Vang shared: “When I was a child, I heard from my grandparents that the Bo Bat pottery had appeared in my homeland more than 3,000 years ago. There was a time when all villagers had worked and lived by the pottery craft”.

With the will to restore the traditional craft of the village, following his high school graduation in 2005, Pham Van Vang visited his uncle’s family in order to learn the trade. After three years, Pham Van Vang moved to Bac Giang province to work for a pottery workshop as he attempted to learn the ancient patterns. He and the workshop’s boss married each other and they returned to Bach Lien village to open a pottery workshop.

Vang began his career arduously, building a simple workshop with a low-tech furnace. He said: “Surveying the market is very important. A stable output is the fulcrum for the enterprises’ sustainable development”. At that time, from early in the morning to late at night, he rode on a motorbike to deliver pottery products, including rings, necklaces and the shapes of animals, to resorts and tourist areas, as well as displaying and selling them in major cities such as Nha Trang, Vung Tau, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

After surveying and updating the market trends, he decided to borrow over VND100 million from a bank in order to develop his pottery workshop and recruit ten local young people to learn the trade in Bat Trang village.

Since 2009, Vang has opened training courses at his workshop for more than 50 local workers. He has continued to seek markets and open more workshops to create pottery jewellery and paintings. His products are decorated with sophisticated and colourful brocade patterns. The most unique and impressive feature of Bo Bat pottery is the ceramic puzzle paintings, which are based on several well-known types of folk paintings, such as Dong Ho. They feature the landscapes, as well as the cultural characteristics, of numerous localities around the country, including famous tourist areas in Ninh Binh province. So far, Bo Bat pottery products have gained a foothold in the markets both at home and in foreign countries including Russia, Germany, France, the US and Japan.

Successes since he was young

Pham Van Vang, born in 1981, began his career nearly 15 years ago; however he established his private enterprise in April 2011. With the motto of not prioritising profit, his products are sold at a low price to serve a range of customers. Currently, Vang’s workshop turns out more than 20,000 products per month, mainly tea-sets, vases, wind chimes, paintings and jewellery. In 2014, his enterprise produced nearly 300,000 products, earning over VND2 billion, as well as creating jobs for dozens of local people with an average salary ranging from VND1.5 million to VND3.5 million per person per month. In 2016, the number of his products increased by 30%.

With admirable efforts, the young man in Bach Lien village could become rich, thanks to the local traditional craft which had seemed to be lost. In 2008, Bo Bat pottery products were honoured to be displayed at a handicraft exhibition in Hanoi and received the golden medal from the Vietnam Farmers’ Association. Notably, on the occasion of 1000th anniversary of Thang Long – Hanoi, Bo Bat potteries were introduced at the traditional trade village fair. In 2014, Pham Van Vang was honoured as one of ten outstanding farmers in production and business, and received the Meritorious Artisan title by Ninh Binh provincial People’s Committee.

The provincial Party Committee and People’s Committee have prioritised restoring Bo Bat ancient pottery as one of their policies. The provincial Department of Science and Technology has also supported Bo Bat pottery enterprises in applying the latest baking technology with larger capacity, in order to improve the products’ quality as well as contributing to developing Ninh Binh’s tourism.

However, although Bo Bat is the starting place of Bat Trang pottery village, many local people do not understand the craft. Vang hoped that the relevant agencies would remove obstacles in administrative procedures and the access to loans, enabling Bo Bat pottery facilities to strongly develop in the next few years.