05/11/2016 13:54 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Terra-Cotta Pig Making in Lai Thieu

The terra-cotta pig making village in Lai Thieu (Thuan An Town) has been developing over nearly half a century. It produces colourful and cute terra-cotta pigs that are widely sold in Tien Giang, An Giang and other provinces in the south west and south east of Vietnam. These toy pigs are also exported to neighbouring countries like Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.
Despite the rapid urbanisation that changes the area day after day, terra-cotta pig making workshops still maintain their production of toy pigs, showing the enormous vitality of the craft.

When we visited the terra-cotta pig making workshop of Tang Thi Tam, whose family's three generations are involved in toy pig production and she has devoted 40 years to this craft, there were about ten workers busily decorating pigs to be sold. According to Tam, her family started producing toy pigs in the 1970s. During that time, her family owned a kiln to bake terra-cotta pigs. The workshop produced every stage in the making of a complete earthen pig, from processing clay, formation and moulding, baking, to painting and decorating. However, nowadays traditional kilns have been restricted due to reverse impacts on the environment. Clay baking therefore is centralised and conducted in industrial kilns. Tam's workshop, with around 30 other workshops in Lai Thieu, focuses on the post-baking completion stages to finalise marketable products.



Baked toy pigs before being decorated.



Newly baked terra-cotta pigs.

Baked toy pigs before being decorated.

Paint used in decorating pigs.

Painting the terra-cotta pigs with colourful paint.


Terra-cotta pig making in Lai Thieu village is still preserved and developed in Binh Duong.

For any child, a terra-cotta pig is something of great significance. The beautifully decorated pig is not only a toy but also a money box where children store their change. The feeling of keeping every small coin and note given by adults and accumulating their little money in a pig, then after a while breaking it to get a relatively large sum is a joy that many children share. 
For any child, a terra-cotta pig is something of great significance. The beautifully decorated pig is not only a toy but also a money box where children store their change. The feeling of keeping every small coin and note given by adults and accumulating their little money in a pig, then after a while breaking it to get a relatively large sum is a joy that many children share.
For Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, Tam's daughter, the toy pigs have been connected with her life differently. From an early age she has been familiar with the smell of paint and the numerous colourful pigs produced in her family's workshop. When grown up, she was taught how to make, colour, and decorate earthen pigs. Gradually, she, as well as many of her friends, has been involved in what made up part of her childhood and has become her livelihood.
She added that in order to produce colourful and lively toy pigs, the makers need to be delicate to draw cute patterns on the pig's body. As this stage it is done totally by hand, each pig has its own details and nuances that cannot be found on others. After the painting and decoration stages, brown terra-cotta pigs are turned into cute and colourful toys that appeal to every child.



A blue terra-cotta pig.


A golden yellow terra-cotta pig, the most expensive product of the village.

A cute completed terra-cotta pig made in Lai Thieu.

Terra-cotta chickens.

Terra-cotta rabbits.

A golden yellow terra-cotta pig, one of the most marketable products of Lai Thieu Village.


Terra-cotta pigs are gifts closely linked with childhood.

Each pig is sold at the price of 7,000-10,000VND, depending on its size. The price sold to traders is only 4,000 VND each. Among different types, the golden yellow pigs are the best sellers and they are also more expensive. Pigs are sold in many provinces in the south eastern and south western regions like Tien Giang and An Giang.
The peak time of the village is the school opening period (in September) and Tet holiday. During these times, parents often buy terra-cotta pigs to give as gifts to their children so that they can use them to store their lucky money or allowance.
Because of tough competition, nowadays not only pigs but other terra-cotta animals such as chickens and rabbits, are also produced in this village. Its main customers, little children, also have more options to choose from.


 
Story: Nguyen Vu Thanh Dat – Photos: Nguyen Luan