Monday, 9 November 2009

Sarawak Pottery


Just somewhere outside the city centre, a haven exists for souvenir hunters. It is not a rare sight to see tourist buses making stops at this stretch of road en route to the airport or from other places of attraction.
This is Jalan Penrissen, or more popularly known as Mile 5 area. Pottery factories dotted both sides of this road, and every factory has a showroom at its front to showcase the finished goods. This is where tourists and locals alike are seen hunting for the well-known Sarawak pottery products.
Most, if not all, of these pottery factories are owned by Teochew Chinese families, having inherited the trade from their forefathers who came to Sarawak in the 19th century. The early Teochew potters produced limited amount of clay-made vessels, mostly for household use.
Over time, the originally-Chinese pottery products were adapted to incorporate traditional Dayak designs and colours, giving them the unique Sarawakian look that are now so famous.
Today, pottery products are not confined to the usual flower vases and pots. They can be in the form of decorative jars, candle holders, coffee mugs, ashtrays, drinking water vessels, coin boxes and table lamps, among many other possible items. Because of their distinctive designs and motifs, they are popular souvenirs and even corporate gifts.
Adding designs to a vase.

The fascinating part while at these pottery factories is not the vast display of pottery products on sale, although they are supposed to be the main attractions, but is the potters at work behind.
Every potter will tell you that the most important element in pottery-making is the clay. With nimble fingers and incomparable mastery, a potter can do wonders to an ordinary lump of clay.
The potter begins by working a lump of clay, adding water to soften it into moulding consistency. He then places it on a motorised pottery wheel, pressing his thumbs into the centre of the clay to make the hollow opening. With wet fingers, he works the way up the clay to make it into its desired shape. Slowly but surely, the form of a beautiful vase takes shape under the almost-magical fingers of the potter.
When the vase is finished, any designs would have to be etched into the surface while it is still damp. After that, it will be left to dry, either in the sun or indoors. Once it is completely dry, it is ready for paintworks and glazing.
The final step would be firing.
In the old days until the recent years, the potters here used traditional Anagama kilns.
These tunnel kilns were about 25 metres in length and could easily hold up to a thousand pots of varying sizes at one time.
However, the heat was not evenly distributed so positioning of the pots was very important to produce optimal result. Smaller pots were usually placed under lower temperature while bigger pieces were placed under the highest temperature. Firing took about 48 hours or more in a traditional kiln.
Of course, today the potteries no longer use the old wood-fired kilns, replacing them with gas-fired kilns. Modern gas-fired kilns allow exact temperature control, more time-efficient and are less of an air pollutant.
Once done with the firing process, the finished product will go to the display in the showroom, all set to be snapped up
by the next discerning souvenir hunter.
The uniqueness of Sarawak pottery attracts many foreign fans. Nobu Matsuike, who was in Kuching recently, admitted that whenever he comes here, he would make it a point to buy back a few pieces of pottery products, either for his own collection or as souvenirs.“I love the traditional designs. I collect vases and jars from all over the world, but none as beautifully-crafted as Sarawak pottery.
Sarawak is famous for many things, but to me, pottery is still the number one product that the people of Sarawak should cherish and develop. Don’t ever let it become a dying trade,” said the Osaka-based retired college professor.
Matsuike, who has around 300 vases of various sizes, designs and origins in his ever-growing collection, also noticed how delighted his friends and associates were when he gave them ashtrays and mugs from Sarawak.
“My friends display them proudly in their homes,” he said.
As Sarawakians, we ought to be proud that pottery, a seemingly simple cottage industry, has now become an irresistible piece of unique Sarawak, well-appreciated even beyond our shores.

p/s : this article i took from a newspaper cutting(or copy paste from online newspaper..)

there is lot of choice you can get sarawak vase...

Where to get:
* Yong Huat Heng Brick & Earthenware Factory , 5th Mile Penrissen Rd, 93250 Kuching, Sarawak.
Tel : +6082 451540 or H/P: +6019 8166266

* Borneo Clay Craft, 219 Jln. Parit Lama, 93400 Kuching, Sarawak.

H/P: +6019 877 8705

* Bricks & Earthenware Factory, 5th Mile Jln. Penrissen, 93250 Kuching, Sarawak.

Tel: +6082 451540

* Earthenware Factory Sdn. Bhd. , 18 Lrg. Teng Kung, 96000 Sibu, Sarawak.

Tel: +6084 213633

* Sarawak Pottery Centre, SP 313, Kuching By-Pass, P.O. Box 1143, 1421, 93728 Kuching, Sarawak.

Tel: +6082 451709

* Nanga Sumpa Longhouse , Batang Ai 95900 Lubuk Antu, Sarawak.

Tel: +6083 584108

+ Toh Brothers Pottery, 8 ½ Mile Jln. Oya, P.O. Box 32, 96007 Sibu, Sarawak.

Tel: +6084 344151