The ceramic works, specifically a sculpture of a toad and an embossed ceramic plate, have respectively been recognised as the largest ceramic sculpture of a mythical creature, and the largest carved ceramic plate.
Born in 1971 in the northern coastal city of Hai Phong, Nguyen Hung has developed his passion for the craft of ceramics from a very young age. After many working trips to survey and learn pottery techniques, he decided to settle down in the Bat Trang pottery village to established his own ceramics company.
Having more than 30 years working with ceramics, Hung has created a new ceramic glaze, which is a mixture from lotus stalk ash and Red River sediment.
Hung shared that ceramics is a harmonious balance of the five elements: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. Accordingly, metal is represented in ceramic clay, water is used to mix with the clay, fire to burn, earth is the clay, and wood is in rice husk and yeast.
Having a deep passion for lotus flower, Hung came up with an idea of replacing rice husk with lotus stalk ash. It took Hung up to 15 years to turn the idea into success. He named the glaze ‘Hoang Tho Lien Hoa’, in which ‘hoang tho’ means alluvial layer of the Red River and ‘lien hoa’ means lotus flowers in Vietnamese.
According to Hung, Hoang Tho Lien Hoa is distinguished from traditional glaze. It not only generates a wider range of colours for the pottery products but also made the products withstand a larger temperature range.
The sculpture of the toad sets a world record as the largest ceramic sculpture of a mythical creature. (Photo courtesy of Guinness World Records)
Another notable creation adopted by Hung is sculpturing technique on ceramics. He succeeded in sculpting on ceramics with more sophisticated and difficult technical requirements. His crafting style creates depth for ceramic products, thus making them more unique while protecting the decorative patterns and shapes of the products from being broken during the firing process.
His experiment on ceramics has received recognition not only from veteran pottery makers but also but also the Guinness World Records as two of his creations have recently been named in the book.
One of them is ‘Thiem thu thien phong an’, which is a sculpture of a toad - a mythical creature symbolising prosperity in Vietnamese belief. Sitting atop a pile of gold coins, the toad is carved with the yin yang symbol on its head, the Great Bear constellation on its back, and a coin in its mouth.
The sculpture, measuring 173.5cm in length, 110cm in width and 77.8cm in height, is recognised as the largest ceramic sculpture of a mythical creature. It took Hung six months to complete the sculpture.
The 400-kg plate named ‘Phu Quy Man Duong’ has been recognised as the largest carved ceramic plate (Photo courtesy of Guinness World Records)
Meanwhile, a 400-kg plate named ‘Phu Quy Man Duong’ is recognised as the largest carved ceramic plate. It is 137cm in diameter and is carved with a cedar tree, a pair of peacocks, the sun and mountains, conveying the meaning of eternal wealth and happiness. Hung had to spend around 18 months to finish the product.
Hung shared that the most challenging step in the making of the two products was how to manage the tensile strength of the clay and protect it from cracks during the firing process to make ceramics.
After dozens of years working with the craft, Hung has kept himself learning new techniques and promotes creativity in his work.
“Failure is my teacher. If you don't go ahead with creativity and just follow the steps of predecessors, you can't establish your own style and will be left behind others,” Hung said.