Bui Cong Khanh

The first pottery arts studio in Hoi An, Xe Ra Mit was founded to showcase and help develop the local pottery industry.

A dish shaped like the spathe of an areca tree

“Xe Ra Mit” was named by localizing the English word “ceramic”. In 2016, I decided to return to my hometown of Hoi An to live and work. Together with Mr. Tran Minh Thai, I implemented a project to build the first pottery arts studio in Hoi An, with an aspiration to showcase and develop the local pottery industry, which is gradually fading away. Thanh Ha pottery village used to thrive near Hoi An. Unfortunately, the skills to produce its ceramic glaze have been lost, and local materials are exhausted and hard to find. For these reasons, Thanh Ha pottery village now only manufactures bricks, tiles, and simple earthenware products for household and tourism needs. That is the story of how Xe Ra Mit came to be.

Fish tail tray, adapted from a design carved from jackfruit wood

With a desire to revive the pottery profession, combining both cultural and modern aspects, we have applied knowledge gleaned in traditional pottery villages like Bat Trang, as well as from domestic and international contemporary pottery studios in Taiwan, China, America, and Israel, etc. to create one-of-a-kind artworks or limited editions that are rich in creativity and new aesthetics, but still connected to the local area and culture.

When we decided to establish Xe Ra Mit studio in Cam Thanh commune, we tried to find a connection with this land. After a lot of research, we found minerals in the mud that can be combined with other ingredients to produce a very unique type of brown glaze. The second striking feature lies in areca trees, which are commonly grown in Cam Thanh. Since the spathe of areca trees can come in graceful and elegant shapes when they fall, we make use of them to shape our ceramic products.

Hand-painted ceramic plates with stylized patterns from storks

On a daily basis, Xe Ra Mit studio’s artists share their exciting thrill while waiting for the freshly finished ceramic products:

Did you notice the pink color on the cup? It is caused by copper oxide when being mixed with glaze. At its original state, the material is almost red. The color will then gradually darken based on the amount of copper oxide being added to, and if you add too much, it will turn to a peculiar black color. Regarding the cup, after being heated with high temperature in the oven, the pink color will turn green just like the leaf at the back. But that’s just my guess, I’m not sure whether the color is going to be darker and lighter, as it needs several takes to get the desired color. Let’s wait and see how the color will turn out to be!” (22/6//2019, taken from the diary).

 “This is the plate that I designed and made by hand, but it no longer has its original shape. I made it when I was on a business trip in Tainan. Due to the relatively erratic weather, I seized the chance when it’s sunny to dry the plate. However, I was absent-minded and left it on the porch, under the sun until the next morning, when I found out that it had been melted by the rain. After several constantly sunny days, the plate was dried again but then it had a different shape with patterns of the rain. I was quite surprised that the middle of the plate still had the patterns of the fabric I had used when rolling the clay. Now I’m holding the rain in the shape of a plate or a plate carrying the rain with it? Whatever it is, I now have for myself the rain of lovely Tainan” (11/5/2019, taken from the diary).

Truth to be told, we and Xe Ra Mit are just that simple