How It's Made: Stoneware by Archive Studio

Posted by Samantha Drury Shore on

Row of 4 raw clay cups

Here at White Black Grey, we delight in knowing how things are made; especially the lovely things we stock in our store. The more transparent our supply chain is, the more confident we can be about ethics and sustainability, plus we are absolute suckers for a behind the scenes photo. Proper production geeks we are. 

Wouter and Lynn from Archive Studio

The very lovely Lynn and Wouter from Archive Studio have kindly shared some photos from their latest factory visit in Vietnam. Archive Studio, based in the Netherlands, design beautiful ceramic tableware, and we have recently added some of their work to our store. See the range here

white ceramic jug and cups on kitchen counter

Cereal in grey ceramic bowl with black spoon and grey napkin

eucalyptus in a grey ceramic jug

I guess many of you will be familiar with the basic process of making ceramics (anyone else in the UK thoroughly enjoying the current season of Pottery Throw Down?)... but this offers a fascinating insight to a slightly more mechanised version of production. These stoneware items are made one at a time, but with the assistance of machinery, by skilled artisans in a Vietnamese workshop. It's been a real pleasure to understand a little more about how this process works. 

black and white image of a ceramic moulding machine

Lynn from Archive tell us how their collaboration began: "The workshop in Vietnam is owned by a woman who has been in the industry for over 40 years. About 4 years ago, the Vietnamese government financed a stand for them at a European fair to introduce their skills to new markets. This is where we met the team and decided to start a sampling process."

Grey and white ceramic bowl and plate, held

So, onto the actual making... the first step is mixing the clay. Each batch of the base materials will be different and therefore react in a different way to the heat when fired. It's important to get the mix as close as possible to the previous one, to try and minimise differences in the final product.

Raw clay mountain

machine mixing clay

Of course a little bit of variance from batch to batch is part of the pleasure of buying products made on this scale, knowing that you own a unique item, carefully crafted. 

Raw clay in cylinders ready for moulding

Next the clay is moulded into shape. This is done using plaster moulds and a machine. Each item is made individually, and the machine is operated by hand.  

Ceramic moulds on a shelf in a factory

The moulds are made from plaster and created using a master sample of the original design. Each mould has two parts, the outer part that the clay is pressed into, and a lid that fills the empty space and so forces the clay into the right shape.

Ceramics being moulded by machine

The moulds can be reused from one batch making to the next. 

Ceramics being moulded by machine

The clay is then left to dry and once dried goes into the kiln for "biscuit firing", this means the items are fired but not yet glazed.  

Unfired ceramic cups

After this initial firing, it is time to add the glaze. For many of Archive Studio's designs, this glaze is added to the inside only, making it waterproof. The outsides are left unglazed, allowing a wonderfully tactile contrast between the two sides of the piece. 

grey and white ceramic plates, close up.

After glazing, comes the final firing, at the high temperature of 1250 °C making the clay compact, and the product durable and strong, as well as microwave- and dishwasher-safe.

Tall grey ceramic cup

The speckle effect in the image shown below is also painted by hand.

speckled ceramic cups in high contrast light

We were delighted to learn that the partnership that Archive have with the workshop has been recognised by the EU as program that does a great job of supporting the local economy in Vietnam. 

Vietnamese girls walking into their ceramics workshop

white and grey ceramic plates, from above

So, any questions? Do comment below if there's anything else you'd like to know and we'll do our best to find the answers for you!

Huge thanks for Lynn and Wouter for taking the time to supply us with all this info and so many photographs. 

Images 1, 2, 3, 6-14 and 16-18 copyright Archive Studio / Lynn Langeveld.
Images 4, 5, 15 and 19 copyright White Black Grey / Samantha Drury Shore.

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