Ben sculpts ~ Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An may be about the architecture and the food and the beach, but Than Ha, the nearby town where fishermen live, has another striking attribute: it is a centuries-old hub for ceramics and pottery.

We know the ceramics capability is legendary and goes back centuries because of writings that go back to the era when the Imperial seat of power, the capital of Viet Nam was in Hue, in Central Vietnam.

The Emperor had the village of Than Ha manufacture all the floor tiles, roof tiles and ceramic decorations for his palace.  This alone cemented the village’s reputation as the center of all things ceramic in Viet Nam.


Large ceramic urns ~ historically to store water… too big, too heavy to bring to Sri Lanka, but … they would look great in our future garden.


The village of Than Ha is pretty much 50% fishermen, 50% pottery maker. Here terracotta bowls and vessels dry in the sun.


A ceramacist lays out her pots to dry in the sun before they go into the fire kiln.


Rustic kiln using fire wood, as opposed to a more modern electric one. This is the traditional, more eco version.


One of the most respected elder potters in the village. We plan to visit her sometime soon.


The pottery wheel used in the village is operated by the potter’s foot, (as opposed to being electric.)



Painting of women in traditional dress ~ today this is the uniform for girls in high school,( in white), as in the painting.


The ubiquitous Vietnamese lotus flower. National flower of Viet Nam, symbol of divine beauty. “In the pond, nothing is more beautiful than lotus, the flower of the dawn.”


Cool wall of clay tiles !


Is this a yoga asana? Note all ceramic pieces are pure terra-cotta. No glazing is done in Than Ha.


An imposing clay wall…which allows the light to stream through.


Ancient ceramicware


One of Ben’s hidden talents is that he sculpts ~ with clay.  Usually more inclined to sculpting nudes  (no surprise here!), this time around, he has a more functional task.

Ben decides to take advantage of Than Ha’s proximity to create clay lanterns that will adorn our future Sri Lanka home.


Where you might see a “block”, Ben sees a Kandinsky, Picasso or Miro…


How fun will it be to have our Ben-made lights in Sri Lanka? Great part of having an entire village dedicated to clay and ceramics is that there is relatively no hassle. Clay available. Tools available. Cheap. Kiln available… Only part missing is a bit of design creativity… and Ben’s got plenty of that…


46 thoughts on “Ben sculpts ~ Hoi An, Vietnam

  1. Paul Fowler

    Love seeing the pics of Hoi An! I got the message while sitting here at the new ipsento with Thao, my Vietnamese friend who I was in Hoi an with. We had fun looking at the great pics!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Paul.
      Hoi An is definitely one of those very special places. Where is Thao originally from in Viet Nam?


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Louise. We were both lucky to grow up with parents who valued creativity and were themselves creative… a fashion designer, artist and ceramicist!

      Than Ha is one of those “hidden secrets”, off the beaten track near Hoi An, of which there are many. Here’s a post from when we lived here a few years back, you might enjoy it:


  2. Sharon Bonin-Pratt

    wonderful history lesson here – love the ceramics and the paintings and sculptures of the people making the ceramic pots. ben’s lamp is excellent – will be beautiful with light pouring out.,

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Glad you enjoyed this post Sharon. Thanks for the lovely comments.
      Ben will be very pleased to hear you like his designns. Yes, I think they will look really lovely at night all lit up.


  3. Mabel Kwong

    These are such beautiful ceramics in Hoi An. They may be heavy to carry but I am guessing the locals are used to carrying them with their hands, or maybe they have some form of transportation to move them around. Very interesting to see how clay and the art of pottery forms so many aspects of this town, from pots to tiles to sculptures. Using foot and hand, there seems to be something very serene about Hoi An – a town of patience and a love for all things intricate.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Mabel,yes, you are right, they are heavy but can be carried locally without problem. We were fantasizing of having these beautiful ceramics, like the large jugs, for our house in … Sri Lanka! Of course the cost to bring them as luggage would be exorbitant, and the option of shipping them is a non-option, as the port of Colombo is jammed with thousand of containers yet to be processed.

      While Hoi An is hardly Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi in terms of urban traffic, there is still a world of whizzing motorbikes, which is not the case in nearby Than Ha, which flows at a much slower pace and feels very rural.

      Thanks for your comments,

      1. Mabel Kwong

        Maybe you might be able to get nice pottery in Sri Lanka, and then you don’t have to worry about the shipping. Then again, there is something very unique about pottery in each country, in Vietnam. Maybe you can take a smaller one with you from Vietnam to Sri Lanka 🙂

        There will always be traffic in Asia, and that is part of the charm of living there. The region is alive and awake 24/7 🙂

        1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

          Yes we will definitely be on the lookout for interesting ceramics and we just found out that there is a ceramic village in Sri Lanka too! It’s going to be interesting traveling from Vietnam to Sri Lanka with two boxes full of Ben’s ceramic lanterns.

          Oh yes, “alive and awake 24/7”.


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      That’s funny…. we never thought of that… ” jack o lanterns”! And once they come out of the kiln, their color will be a burnt orange sienna, more akin to the color of a pumpkin.


  4. carolinehelbig

    I love Ben’s lanterns!

    I keep on thinking about your bathtub dilemma …maybe they could make you a ceramic one (on a giant wheel).

    Sorry, I think the Thanksgiving festivities (Canadian) are making me silly.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Caroline…. That is EXACTLY what we thought too.

      Check out this post from 2013 (in Northern Viet Nam) and if you scroll down you will see me soaking in a giant ceramic “teacup”!

      We would LOVE that to be our bathtub, but shipping that from Viet Nam to Sri Lanka is out of our budget sadly and also not in keeping with an environmentslly friendly low carbon footprint. Our goal will be to find a local solution ultimately. And I think we may have an interesting solution….coming up soon!


  5. Brook Skillman

    So thankful to be apart of this new chapter in Asia, building your next dream home…

    Than Ha- SUCH a beautiful energy, making me want to go there right now…Banh Xeo??

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      So thankful you are a part of this new chapter, as we begin our lives together in Asia!

      Yes… the best Vietnamese pancakes we have had… a family living just beyond Thsn Ha that focus only on making Banh Xeo in the season for them, which, luckily for us, is now! Yum. Let’s go…


  6. Bun Karyudo

    I really like that clay wall. It creates such an amazing atmosphere. It’s almost like the effect you get in some temples. Incidentally, Ben’s lanterns are sure to look great when they’re put in place in your home.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Yes that wall is very interesting. It would look very cool in a house! I think it inspired Ben’s designs for the lanterns. Thanks Bun Bun.


  7. Safar Fiertze

    Wonderful skill to have – well done Ben, love the lanterns. As other commenters above have said, the clay wall is inspirational indeed. My favourite pic though – is the pond.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Safar. We had a great view of the pond and it’s surrounding sculptures from the top floor.


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Yes, Ben is definitely a multi talented man 🙂 so glad you love the lanterns.
      Merci Madame Bell xoxo


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Sue. Yes it’s definitely fun to be able to create functional things and then have a home to enjoy them in. I am looking forward to seeing them up as well.


  8. lexklein

    Loved reading about the town and seeing Ben’s creations! Great way to incorporate your love of Vietnam and feature your own handiwork in your Sri Lankan home.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Lex…
      That’s exactly how we see it!
      While we are here in Viet Nam we are also gathering a few select things like Vietnamese bamboo bowls, woven bamboo trays…all very beautiful, inexpensive and a great way to bring a touch of Viet Nam with us to Sri Lanka. And of course Hoi An is the mecca of tailors for making clothing, so a good place to replenish the wardrobe a bit ( especially as I will actually have my own closet!!


  9. Joanne Sisco

    When in Than Ha, it makes total sense to make your own ceramics! Bravo Ben.
    Was this your intention to have Ben make lanterns, or was it an afterthought when you got there?

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Good question! When we lived in Hoi An for three months in 2013, Ben’s regret was that he had not used the opportunity to make the most of the fact that there is a ceramic village so near by! Prior to that, for years in Chicago, he loved to sculpt nudes in clay, while I painted or did drawings…

      So this time he was adamant about taking advantage of the proximity and facilities here. We discussed potential projects and making our own lights for the house was one of them. He wasted no time to get going on the lanterns. He also now has a bin of clay waiting to be formed into sculptures. (The search for models is underway….)


  10. Liesbet

    Nice work, Ben!

    Adding your own creativity to your home is a wonderful thing to be able to do! I envy your talents… Memories of us doing a three hour shift stoking a wood fire kiln this summer come to mind.

    The results are spectacular.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Ben is blushing at your lovely comments….. He was shooting for “nice”, so “spectacular” comes in above expectations.

      The image of your stoking a wood fire kiln has Ben thinking “maybe we should build a kiln”.. but I am hoping for an outdoor woodfire pizza oven.


  11. Anna De Boer

    I enjoyed reading this blog Ben! I’m writing from Colombo in Sri Lanka. Recently I went to look for ceramic lampshades. At Lakpahana (behind the Good Market Shop) I found some but not what I was looking for. I had some nice conversations … ‘There must be a pottery village somewhere!’ I said. The man recalled that it’s somewhere on the Colombo-Kandy road, after the cane shops … He called his friend who gave the name of ‘Molagoda’ in the area of Kegalle. Instead of transporting these beautiful lampshades from Vietnam to Sri Lanka, maybe Ben would like to think of making other ones in Molagoda? I think there are more pottery villages in Sri Lanka.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Anna for doing some of the legwork for us! This is great to hear and it means that if any of Ben’s lanterns might break during transportation from Viet Nam, (gasp) then he has somewhere to go to make new ones.

      I am sure we will be heading to Molagoda for a visit soon, or anywhere that has a pottery village in the Southern part of Sri Lanka.


  12. Lisa Dorenfest

    OMG Ben’s sculpture is magnificent. I went to a similar place in Bat Trang to make a clay pot and it was so horrendous that the shop’s owners tried to fix it and failed. I had it shipped to myself at my hotel and when it arrived, the staff had very confused looks on the faces as to why I would want to keep such a thing. It didn’t make the trip home

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Still today we are enjoying his sculptures in the form of lanterns which grace the house we live in, in Sri Lanka. Most of them did not survive the journey either, but just enough did, that every time we look at them we are transported right back to Tan Ha, the pottery village near Hoi An. That is a pretty funny story, Lisa!

      Prior to these works, Ben used to sculpt nude figures, and those are on the walls of our ex bathroom in Granada, Nicaragua.

      Peta & Ben

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