Category: Traditional Craftsmanship
The making of traditional wood-fired pottery using dragon kilns draw on millennia of pottery traditions in China, and was established in Singapore by immigrants from Chaozhou in the early 1900s.
Firing of Dragon Kiln at Thow Kwang. Courtesy of Yeo Kirk Siang.
A dragon kiln is usually long and thin in shape, with steep slopes on the side. The name “dragon kiln” may be attributed to how it has a fiery, almost dragon-like appearance when being fired. The temperature inside a dragon kiln can reach up to 1,260 degree Celsius. As a result of the high temperatures and the addition of ash and salt, the pottery that are fired by the dragon kiln would usually have a “fly-ash” or glossy finish. This process is known as yao bian (窑变), which translates to “kiln change.”
During the early 1960s, there were an estimated 10 kilns in Singapore at the Jurong area. These kilns were located in Jurong due to the availability of clay that was suitable for pottery making. The products produced by these dragon kilns have evolved through the years, ranging from the production of clay cups for collecting latex in the 1960s, to flower pots in the 1970s, and finally to ornamental products such as pots and mugs in the 1980s.
Today, there are two remaining dragon kilns in Singapore – Jalan Bahar Clay Studios (former Guan Huat Dragon Kiln) and Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle. The former is managed by a private company while the latter is run as a family business. The kilns attract a wide range of visitors including artists, ceramic art collectors, heritage enthusiasts and members of the public who are keen to learn more about the making of wood-fired pottery.
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