Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Dragon Kiln

I first saw the big POTTERY sign when we were in a large park section of Western Singapore for a dog hash.  The directions took us past green expanses of new tech parks with an occasional lifeless office building and then moved beyond to a road bordered by open space, across from the sign.  Didn't even think about it.  Later, I learned that the sign points the way to a family-run pottery business, Thow Kwang Industry, which is home to one of the last surviving dragon kilns or “Long Yao” in Singapore.  The kiln, a 6-meter long clay structure (my estimate), was built in the 1940s and was taken over by the current owners, the Tan family, in the 1960s.  They've expanded to include a warehouse store where the family's pottery and ceramics from China are sold, and where they hold pottery classes.  So, last Sunday, I took a trip over to that part of town and spent at least two hours there, totally awed by the place.  I have never seen so much ceramics in one location - vases, statues, bowls, plates figurines.  We witnessed a large kiln in operation, heated by an open fire, when we first got there.  The dragon kiln was dormant, but imposing with its long snout, a chimney at one end and small brick opening at the other.  Due to Singapore's penchant for progress and development, its existence, as many traditional entities in the country, is threatened.  The "lifeless office building" mentioned earlier is part of a "Clean Tech Park" and is the way of the future in this part of Singapore.  Let's hope the dragon kiln survives the area's transformation.
The dragon kiln