The ancient village of Bat Trang has been producing exceptional porcelain ceramics for over 1,000 years. Conveniently located near the Red River, the potters of Bat Trang have an endless supply of a mineral-rich clay called mica. This clay is much stronger than common red clay, making it ideal for long-lasting dishes and art. Potters use traditional painting methods and a glazing technique developed long ago in Vietnam. Nature scenes, especially with dragonflies and flowers have proven to be the most popular pieces for the past hundreds of years.
With remarkable painting techniques and such durability, it’s no wonder why the village has remained successful for over a millennium. Nearly 2,000 households are working every day to ensure that each and every piece they create is perfect. Each family puts a different spin on the ancient form of art.
Pottery has played a significant role in the shaping of Vietnamese culture. It is a respected art, which is why it is still so important today. With great respect to their elders, many artisans try to make their products as traditional as they can be. They follow the same routine and use the same recipes as their ancestors. It is strongly believed that the process created by their ancestors has been perfected, that’s why it has not changed in so long. The process is simple: harvest the clay, mix it with grog, shape, dry in the sun, paint, glaze, and bake in a wood oven. By far the most important step in the process is the painting. The paint is made up of silica and chemical pigments not found in most of the world, which gives items from Bat Trang their unique colors.
Even with the closeness to Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, the people of Bat Trang were still struggling to generate enough income to support themselves for a long time. That is, until they were introduced to the wonderful world of fair trade. The majority of artisans in the village are partnered with Craft Link, a fair trade organization. Craft Link provides a marketplace to people in rural villages and people with disabilities. They are the main fair trade organization that partners with the artisans in Bat Trang. They ensure that artisans are paid fairly for the amount of time, effort, and skill put into each product. By selling through fair trade with Craft Link, the artisans make nearly double the amount that the average citizen in Vietnam makes in a month. They use this money to support themselves, their families, and to benefit their communities.