Southern ceramic kilns work overtime as Year of the Mouse nears

Update: 17:16 | 09/01/2020

Ceramic workshops in the southern province of Binh Duong are busy making mouse statues for the upcoming Lunar Year of the Mouse.

Weeks before the Lunar New Year, or Tet, is the busiest time for ceramic kilns in Tan Uyen Town in Binh Duong.

Nguyen Hong Hop, the owner of a pottery factory, pours clay into mouse-shaped molds. "Every year two months before Tet I make molds shaped like the zodiac animal of the [upcoming] year. This year I am using Mickey Mouse and the brass mouse holding money," she says.

Southern ceramic kilns, work overtime, Year of the Mouse, Ceramic workshops, Binh Duong province, mouse statues

Nguyen Hong Hop, the owner of a pottery factory, pours clay into mouse-shaped molds.

For 15 years her family has lived and worked in the workshop, which makes piggy banks. "Our workshop makes about 700 items every day, and for Tet we produce double that number. Dozens of workers work until late," Hop, from the northern province of Thai Nguyen, adds.

Tran Van Manh, 50, a worker at Hop's factory, shovels clay into a mixer. Clay, water and glue are put together and mixed. The clay, bought in Ben Cat District in Binh Duong, is strong and smooth, ideal for pottery making.

Manh, who has been in the pottery business for two years, says: "Every day I have to mix more than a ton of clay. Often newcomers do this work."After more than an hour of exposure to the sun, the statues are removed from the mold. Workers then use a knife to scrape off excess clay.

Southern ceramic kilns, work overtime, Year of the Mouse, Ceramic workshops, Binh Duong province, mouse statues

The products are then dried under the sun for two more hours before being fired.

The products are then dried under the sun for two more hours before being fired.

Hop’s husband, Le Quang Loi, 48, arranges the products in the kiln. He says: "They need to be fired for about 10 hours. A kiln holds 3,000 products on average."

Nguyen Van Quyet, who is responsible for maintaining the fire in the kiln, says: "This job is quite extreme under the sun and in the boiling kiln. I earn VND5 million ($216) a month."

Most workers in pottery kilns in Tan Uyen come from northern localities like Hanoi, Thai Nguyen and Hai Duong.

After being taken out of the kiln, the ceramic items are brought to workshops in the nearby Thuan An Town for decoration.

Vo Thi Thanh Hang, 42, says 2,000 pieces are brought there every day. She paints each mouse golden. "The main product is still the piggy bank because it is popular. This year the mouse is popular because of Tet."

Color powder is used because it has strong adhesion and dries quickly. Glitter is applied after the coat of paint.

Southern ceramic kilns, work overtime, Year of the Mouse, Ceramic workshops, Binh Duong province, mouse statues

A gold mouse statue costs VND30,000-80,000 ($1.3-3.5) depending on the size.

Hang says the most difficult task is to paint around the eyes, nose and beard and it requires skillful hands.

Doan Van Het, a hawker, loads his bike with statues to sell in Ho Chi Minh City.

According to kiln owners, demand for these kinds of products is mainly in southern and central provinces, while some are exported to Laos and Cambodia.

The country will enjoy a seven-day holiday for the Tet festival, staring January 23, two days before the Lunar New Year.

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Source: VnExpress

 
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