TEXT & PHOTO: Kaycie Gayle
Visiting artisans has been one of the activities I’ve been looking forward to whenever on travel because it gives me an idea of how things are made manually during the old times. Hence, when I was able to visit Ilocos, the jar making in Pagburnayan district has been one of the activities I’m thinking. The word ‘pagburnayan’ actually came from the Ilocano word ‘burnay’ which means hand-crafted jars or earthenware pots. And since clay potteries and jars were in demand before, this district has been known to produce it. However, since these pots are manually made by the hands, require skills to be able to do it, plus the demand for the use of pottery has decreased, pottery making has slowly become a dying art and almost being forgotten. Ergo, I felt I was fortunate to visit pagburnayan district where the art of pottery-making is still existent and see it for myself before this art gets extinct.
Array of pots and jars
Upon seeing the unimposing entrance of the jar factory, you would instantly know that they are selling pottery as it displays different styles of terracotta pots and jars on its front yard. From here, you would see simple designs but as you go inside, you’ll see more of an array of pots, jars, and vases in different styles, shape, and sizes. By exploring more of the small factory, you’ll easily find where the pots are made regardless that it has no signage, and here is where the visitors can sit to watch or try jar making.
Facade of the Jar Factory
A potter will show you how pots and jars are made from clay to forming it and would do a short demo before letting you try it for yourself. First, he will ask you to sit down while he is putting a glob of clay on a platform with a manually-pedaled rotating disk. Then, he will spin the base with his foot and will ask you to form the jar with your hands. He will guide you on how you should place your hand and how much pressure you should put into it. However, in the process of doing it, you must expect that mudstains may cling to your clothes and fingernails. Once the jar is formed, it is then left to dry a bit, but be reminded that you will not be able to take your own formed jar because it has to be placed inside massive kilns to be cooked and this takes a bit of time. And since this process is longer than I can wait for due to time constraint I was not able to see how these jars are cooked on a hot and smoky kiln.
Manually-pedaled rotating disk
For some reason, I was mesmerized by just waching how others shaped the clay pots by their hand as they are being guided by the potters. I wasn’t able to try it myself since there are other visitors who also like to try it, hence I just contained myself in observing. It looks easy but once you’ve seen how delicate the jars and pots being formed can be, you would understand that jar and pottery making requires skill and artistry to make well-formed pottery.
Pottery Making Demo
Learning how to make pottery is for free since they won’t really charge you anything, however, you can buy from their products just to show gratitude or appreciation on their art. Also, the jars and pots that are available for sale here are a good souvenir that you can take home to remind you of your trip to this pottery workshop. Meanwhile, if you’re not buying, we can still show your appreciation by giving a tip for their effort and any amount would be much appreciated. As the old adage goes, ‘though donations are not compulsory, they are of course appreciated.’
Jars on display and for sale
This dying art may something you don’t appreciate yet but upon seeing pottery making first-hand, you’ll come to appreciate it. Despite that it is a short visit and I have just observed how jars are being formed, it has provided me something to take home, and that is a leveled up appreciation on this art.
There are different Jar factories in the Pagburnayan district, however, the one that I visited is RG Jar Factory. These jar factories are located at Gomez St. Vigan, Ilocos Sur
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All expenses are paid by the author.