leandro, unique ceramics

In a country where mass production is around every corner, Leandro is one of the few to offer handmade ceramics in Saigon. He daily conveys the message that beauty is inside imperfection and uniqueness.

 Conversation with   Leandro


︎Version française

The beginnings

Tenerife (Canary islands)︎ Madrid ︎ London ︎ Saigon

« I was born in Tenerife, a canary island. I then lived in Madrid and London where I met my husband who is Vietnamese American. When he got a job transfer in Saigon, we moved over here.

In Saigon, I took a ceramic class with an ultra-inspiring Japanese teacher. I learnt Japanese technics on how to make ceramics with a potter’s kick-wheel that you can only activate by hand.

I (re)discovered this passion until the point to apply for the assistant position and then for a teacher position that I kept for 2 years.

I made a lot of ceramics, until I decided to sell them on a market in 2015. There were a bit too much ceramics at home… I sold 80% of what I brought to the market. It was the sign I was waiting for to launch my brand Hey Camel ceramics! »

Handmade ceramics in Vietnam: difficult!

« 3 years ago, there was still no one selling handmade ceramics in Saigon. Only mass production, with products that answered standardized norms. As a consequence, handmade ceramics with its own ‘flaws’ is not always understood. Products are seen as defective!

The stake is to show that it is in imperfection and uniqueness that beauty can be found. That the emotion attached to handmade production needs to be stronger than a standardized norm.

What I love and what I try to relay is to learn how to celebrate the difference! »

Le procédé pour des produits uniques

« To produce the ceramics, I get the clay from the center of Vietnam. »

Traditional ceramics were first made around Hanoï, in the north of Vietnam: porcelain & small objects.
Historically in Saigon, in the south of Vietnam, the clay is white and the objects are bigger: bigger pieces for inside or outside (sink, pot...)
In the center of Vietnam, the clay is rawer, easier for craftsmanship.

« I directly get the enamel from the ceramic factories in Saigon: there is no store yet for small companies like Hey Camel to get this kind of raw material. I produce each product by hand, usually with a kick-wheel for uniqueness. As I kick the wheel by hand, the rotation speed is not steady and one of your hand is busy with the kicking instead of focusing only on the clay.

I make around 20 pieces of each product, not more. They are all unique, thanks to the kick-wheel.

The enamel is the last step of the process - before the kiln. I play with it to create different aesthetics: either figurative décor that I draw by hand or abstract décor. I always work the enamel to turn into earthy colors. »

Ancestral inspirations

« To imagine the new shapes of ceramics, I research a lot in the Japanese, Moroccan and Vietnamese aesthetics and culture.  I created a whole set of ceramics inspired from the Cao Daï religion aesthetics. I worked around the Divine eye symbol, omnipresent in the Cao Daï temple in Tây Ninh, not far from Saigon. »

The Cao Daï religion was founded in the 20’s in the current south of Vietnam. It follows the principle that “all religion has the same principle of peace and goodness and that we should live in unity” – principle that was revealed by divine spirits who reached out to Cao Dai priests during séances. Cao Daï worshipers believe in one God. Its spirit has revealed itself in various sages, like Mahomet, Jesus, Lao Tseu, Buddha and Confucius.

Cao Daï is a mix of influences (= syncretic religion) between all the religions and some specific authors of western literature (like Victor Hugo or William Shakespeare for example). Tolerance is a vital element in their precept.

The opened eye is the main symbol of Cao Daï : the Divine Eye represents God and is a symbol of its omnipresence. In its pupil can be seen the symbol of Yin and Yang. This symbol can also be found on the altar, along with the 5 elements of the universe (Fire, Wood, Earth, Metal and Water) and the 3 precious elements of human beings: tea, flowers and alcohol that represent intelligence, spirit, and energy.

The Cao Daï religion is much more complex than our small paragraph and currently gather around 5 millions members.

«I also worked around an ancestral shape of a rice bowl that was historically made during the famine periods. It gave the impression that it contained more rice than it actually did. I twisted the shape in a more modern way. I also added tinted clay from the block: the blue line comes up randomly during the creation of the bowl. »

Today and tomorrow

« I am currently selling my products online and in my workshop / store in Saigon. I organize classes* there to raise awareness around handmade ceramics know-how.
*If you ever go by Saigon, Leandro’s workshop address is in our city guide. Drop by!
I also create tailored sets for restaurants and hotels. I formed a team of 5 people who work in the workshop.

I would like to meet the challenge to work at a bigger scale, to export the products Hey Camel while respecting the process of uniqueness and craftsmanship! »

Le site d’Hey camel ceramics : ici
Le facebook d’Hey camel ceramics : ici


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