When I saw this programme in the Golibrary booking system, I clicked add to cart because it was the freaking dragon kiln (one of 2? in Singapore) and it’s always been so far from me.
Hence, I had to go since I wanted to go there for quite a long while.
This is the first time I went on an EXCURSION with the library, they chartered a bus for us too. So exciting.
The dragon kiln! It’s not yet fired up but it’s there. Pieces of wood and were piled around it to be used for kindle for whenever it is supposed to be started.
This is Mrs Tan, she was telling us more about the dragon kiln as it is her family’s!
In Taiwan or anywhere closer to China these kilns would be called snake kilns because it’s only royalty who were allowed to called the kilns, dragon kilns. Not sure if you can see the shape but it’s a VERY long tunnel like structure on a slope.
You put the clay pieces inside and the fire it up with wood and it’ll reach around 1200 degrees celcius for the first part of the kiln and the next part is 1000 degrees, then 800 degrees and so on.
We got to get inside the kiln! It’s really super cool like being in some underground tunnel.
If you noticed the first two pictures, there’s an altar of sorts on top of it, before the kiln is fired, offerings would be made to the kiln God. For Singapore, it’s 3 kinds of meat – fish, chicken and pork.
Mrs Tan told us different countries had different offerings and for Korea it was a pig’s head. Unfortunately since it’s difficult to get it, they have a ‘replacement’ of a clay pig’s head made as an offering for the traditional kilns in Korea.
We also learned about the different kinds of pottery and what was green ware (pottery that was just air dried), bisque ware (just fired once), glazed firing (glazed with colours onto the bisque ware) and pit or salt firing.
That’s the one that gives really cool effects. The merlions above are glazed and wow, when I saw them it’s the ones when I was a kid and my teachers had it for teacher’s day gifts or something!
It’s REALLY old and you can’t really buy it anywhere, any more, I think?
When I signed up for this tour, I didn’t really know what was going to happen. Maybe we’d just looksee and learn more about the kiln?
Well, we did but… WE WERE ALSO GOING TO DO SOME POTTERY OURSELVES!
This is Steven, one of the instructors and artists there at Thow Kwang. We got to make SAUCERS since this was the pottery wheel method in which you really had to have stable hands.
Everyone of us got to make one and it was really fun.
Before we did our saucers, he did demos of a vase and other plates. We oooh-ed cause it made it look so easy.
That wasn’t the only thing we got to make.
We walked up to the second floor and Mrs Tan (with Stella, one of the staff there) did a presentation about Thow Kwang and how it was an industrial pottery place in the past.
They elaborated more on the history of the place and what it was used for mostly. Back in the past, they’d make rubber pots aka pots for rubber tappers to put the latex in from the trees.
So while we learned more about the dragon kiln when we were on the first floor, we learned more about the area on the second.
It’s really interesting so I hope you guys will get to go on a tour or make a trip here yourselves one day.
And thus, we got to learn about hand throwing clay. Mrs Tan demoed a vase and she did it so quickly and it looked SO pretty too. When her vase was finished, she did a little flower arrangement and ok, it is really super impressive, okay?
She’s quite a professional in flower arrangement besides being a clay artist.
The clay I was given to use.
And we all made our vases! We won’t get them so fast though because THESE are going to go into the dragon kiln.
The dragon kiln is fired only twice a year… Thus, we’re going to see our pieces around after April or so?
This also means that if you want to have your clay pieces fired in a dragon kiln, you should start now and go there or contact them or something.
What’s the difference between having your pieces fired in a dragon kiln and a electric kiln? WELL, for the dragon kiln, it’s all wood fired and thus it is UNPREDICTABLE. Sure, you can guess or imagine what might happen or what sort of ashes would form as patterns on your piece but you’ll not really know if it will work.
Electric kilns are pretty predictable and the heat is all even, so that’s what the difference is.
That was quite a very duh explanation.
All the more you should go there and learn for yourself.
I should hope my vase and saucer survives the firing, meanwhile Thow Kwang actually sells a LOT of vases, ceramics and pottery. They’re freaking cheap compared to any other shop outside.
They have fancy cups and saucers, decorative sculptures and well traditional Peranakan looking furniture too!
You can BUY THIS. If you have some occasion or need to buy souvenirs or stuff for your home, just go here first for the pottery stuff.
Thow Kwang dragon kiln is actually pretty accessible NOW via public transport too. Just drop at Boon Lay MRT and take bus 199.
There is a bus stop near by and you can walk in.
Want to attend their half day workshops, check their facebook at the Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle.
Their blog is here.
And you can email them at pottery(at)thowkwang.com.sg to know more about their workshops.
I FORGOT but I did see their prices being around $35-$50 with all materials included but I can’t remember which items they teach you with the different prices.
It’s best to email them anyway. From what I see there’s cheaper ones for smaller/simpler items to learn but yes, best to email them since they have regular classes there too.
I really had fun learning more about the dragon kiln, the history and making my pieces. If the library manages to hold another tour to Thow Kwang, just CLICK ADD TO CART because it’s really good.
If not the library, just go on your own or have a bunch of friends and sign up for a workshop together since it’s totally worth it.
Thank you NLB and Thow Kwang Dragon Kiln for this experience! And I REALLY mean thank you cause I enjoyed myself a lot. I hope others will get to do this too.