Thow Kwang Pottery Hot
Formed by a group of Singaporean clay artists, this rustic hideaway is replete with local flavor and history. Be sure to visit this cultural gem and feed the 'Dragon' - an elongated kiln that 'eats' and 'breaths' fire - before rumored urban redevelopment projects reclaim this humble pottery abode.
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In the kiln
Thow Kwang Pottery is a bit like Narnia if you think about it, hidden away among the leafy greenery, a small tiny enclave untainted by Singapore's rapid urbanisation. Although I have not visited the place for a few years, I can still remember walking along the rubble leading up to the main area, where hand-crafted pots and clay figurines lined the vegetation along the two sides.
In terms of finding the actual place; like Narnia, the location is relatively difficult to find, given that it is tucked away from any main roads and bus stops while being situated near a highway. However, with enough know-how and a GPS, it is definitely a place worth visiting! Be prepared for a lot of sweating in the heat, and possibly random attacks from wild monkeys that might appear from the nearby forests.
The pottery on sale is worth a place in any home or garden. I myself bought a pair of white rabbit figurines to be placed in my back garden, to where they still inhabit to this day. Given the economical prices there, quality of the clay themselves are not compromised in any way! History fans could also take a trip down to the grounds to see an actual brick kiln (although I am unsure if it is still in use) Other than flowering pots and figurines, there is also a wide range of Chinese deities on sale, carved out with meticulous care and detail, as with all their pottery items!
clay-doh at its best
With a free day, my friends and I decided to take a trip down to Thow Kwang after researching interesting places in Singapore. It definitely isn't the most accessible place in the world, but one plus point is the handmade directional signs, starting around the (somewhat) nearby bus-stop we alighted at. In that sense, the place isn't hard to find because you have directions, but sure is a pain to get to. We'd only gotten to the bus-stop close to five, their closing time, so we were panicking a little. The walk honestly seemed to last forever - I was almost certain the signs were leading us the wrong way, until we finally saw... a vase on a hill. And figured we were close.
Though the weather was really hot, the long walk didn't detract from the rustic charm of the 'pottery jungle' - and of course, the small selection of cold drinks and ice-cream at the counter did help. I love such hidden treasures, a jungle you can walk right past without even discovering the little pottery bubble nestled within (disregarding the signs, of course). And what a treasure it is! It wasn't just the dragon kiln that intrigued us, but the pots and statues and ornaments littered across the compound as well. Arranged on shelves or stacked in piles and piles on the ground; animals and people or just simple vases and bowls, I've never seen so much pottery in my life!
What makes this place even more amazing is that this is Singapore, metropolitan city. My visit made me so glad to find such places still exist, and that there are still potters nowadays so passionate about their craft. The people there didn't exactly seem up for interaction, though, and we didn't get to catch them in action either! I think I'd like to go back sometime, maybe to witness the next firing of the dragon kiln if I can.
This is one of those Singaporean surprises that delights. When I went there I was stunned. Here we were, in a little ice of hidden forest, on a lake, with rather ramshackle, rustic buildings containing the oddest assortment of kilns and furnaces I have ever seen. That in itself was fascinating. The dragon kiln is particularly fascinating.
But of course, I am not a potter. I simply love pots. We started to explore the galleries, or rather, the displays in the two main buildings. The range. The quality. The prices. Everything was a plus. Especially the prices. Plus is an apt description. But here we find artists and artistes so prices reflect their esteem both imagined and earned.
The real charm was the incredible range of pieces, from the common to the exotic to the extreme to the fanciful to the amazing.
Even if you are not into pottery, this is a place worth going to if you have an hour or two to spare and you are in Boon Lay area. Fascinating.
Exploring the Hidden Dragon: A Valuable Experience for all ages
It has been a while since I last visited Thow Kwang Pottery in Kranji (or what I prefer to know as the Dragon Kiln).
I first visited the place during an art bootcamp in secondary school, and it was a highlight that left a deep impression on me. Under the detailed explanation of a guide, we explored the different areas of the "dragon", uncovering the science and history of this age-old technique of firing clay works. One of the then managers (who was also a clay artist) had also very kindly allowed us to fire some of our existing clay works there, much to our excitement. There was also a corner with some newly fired clay works that we could examine and learn more from.
It's a great pity that few people know that such a place still exists in Singapore. I would definitely recommend it for its educational, cultural and historical value.