AT SOME ELUSIVE corner in the West lies a large kampong- style compound littered with dozens of earthen wares, with warehouses packed full of antiques and ceramics. This is the home to the Thow Kwang Industry, better known as Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle.
Founded in 1965, this family-run business is dedicated to the preservation and education of everything pottery with weekly workshops and tours. Its key feature is the 36 meter long dragon kiln, which is one of the last remaining two in Singapore. This wood-fired kiln produces ash and smoke that react with the clay, producing unexpected colours in the clay.
That is the charm of the dragon kiln – its unpredictable nature.
This uniqueness of the dragon kiln is one that Thow Kwang Industry fought hard to preserve, an effort that has been successful thus far and is still being continued. I sat down with one of the potters, Stella Tan, to talk about her recent efforts to promote Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle and her ultimate vision for the business.
I began by asking her about her “art”, a notion she quickly rejected. “I do not really consider myself an artist. The products I make are just for my own pleasure, and I focus on creating functional wares. That being said, I still really enjoy pottery, which is why I returned here last year to help the family with the business,” she remarked, with a slight smile on her face.
We talk further about the history of the business, both noting the significance of Thow Kwang’s shared birthday with our nation. “I feel that it is very important to preserve Thow Kwang because of its shared history with Singapore – they both turn 50 next year. You could say we grew up alongside this country,” she muses. “We are a significant part of Singapore’s heritage and history, so it is very important to us to be able to pass on that knowledge to younger generations.”
Being one of the youngest potters on the compound, it is no wonder that Stella is the one responsible for Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle’s recent revival on social media and their appearances at various art and design markets, such as night markets by The Local People along with The Design Supermarket by Naiise.
“I find that youths nowadays are getting more interested in learning new things – not necessarily for the long term, but just for the experience. This is why I feel that it is important to try and outreach to them more, through all these different avenues.”
I pose one final question for Stella: What is your goal for Thow Kwang Industry in the foreseeable future?
Ultimately, our end goal is to create a noticeable brand for Thow Kwang Industry. In the future, I hope when people think of pottery, they would immediately think of us.
All photos courtesy of Abigail Chui.