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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
The moulds can be reused from one batch making to the next.
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.
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.
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.
The speckle effect in the image shown below is also painted by hand.
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.
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.