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With a population of 6,500, the village of Bát Tràng is dwarfed by its neighbor, Hà Nội, on the other side of the Red River. However, for the past six centuries (some say it could have been even longer) it has supplied beautiful ceramics to all of Việt Nam and to countries around the world. In the United States, some big and small stores carry Bát Tràng products, prized for their quality and reasonable prices.

We made a special trip to go see Bát Tràng, only 9 miles (15 kilometers) away from the center of Hà Nội. Almost every house is either a store or a place where they make ceramics from giant vases to dinnerware and small figurines. The place we visited and where I took the following shots made smaller vases and good-luck products in the form of animals and dolls.

Worker pouring liquid clay into mold. The area around Bát Tràng had many deposits of white clay, but now the clay must be brought in from other parts of the country.

Worker pouring liquid clay into mold. The area around Bát Tràng had many deposits of white clay, but after six centuries, clay must now be brought in from other parts of the country.

Electric bulbs are used to dry clay inside the molds.

Electric bulbs are used to dry clay inside the molds.

During an effort at collectivization in the 1960’s, villagers were forced to use communal dragon kilns set up by the communist government. However, the dragon kilns were big and uneconomical, so Bát Tràng villagers built and hid small box kilns inside their houses. Over time the box kilns won over the inefficient government kilns. Today the box kilns are gas fired to reduce pollution, improve efficiency and maintain better quality control.

Products ready to be baked inside box kiln.

Clay products ready to be baked inside the box kiln seen in the back of the room.

A worker washing and smoothing products before they can be decorated by other workers.

A worker washing and smoothing products before they can be decorated by other workers.

Decorator/painter at work.

Decorator/painter at work.

The decorators worked fast but never seemed to have misplaced brush stroke.

The decorators worked fast but never seemed to have a misplaced brush stroke.

Products ready to be placed inside kilns.

Products ready to be moved inside kiln.

Some finished products after they were baked in kiln.

Some finished products after coming out of kiln.

Of course the main street in the village consisted of nothing but stores where ceramics products are sold. Tourists can buy whatever they like, and larger pieces can be shipped back home for them.

Typical store in Bát Tràng.

Typical store shelves in Bát Tràng. Blue and white are the classic colors, but there are many more today.

Lamp shades?

Lamp shades.

Vases.

Vases.

Figurines.

Figurines.

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