This Airbnb experience lets you build your own tableware from Singapore’s oldest brick-built kiln

This Airbnb experience lets you build your own tableware from Singapore’s oldest brick-built kiln

Pottery jungle

Text: Janice Sim

Time to put those hands into good work

First things first, I'm the last person you would associate with art and craft. Sure, I get that you can't put a price tag on anything made from love and hard work. But sometimes, that price tag could make a lot of things easier and prettier. Believe me, I've been there and can testify to that.

But in some weird, prideful way, I needed to prove myself wrong, which is why I decided to choose a pottery class out of Airbnb's slew of exciting experiences. The initiative is simple — instead of renting out homes, book out an experience in a city of your choice, essentially an activity hosted by a local expert in that particular field.

My experience was "Get Dirty With Clay", held at Singapore's oldest brick-built kiln, Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle, located in the western region of Singapore — a.k.a the largest pottery space you'll find on our shores.

Airbnb pottery clay kiln

I soon realised that I was walking into a piece of history that had been around before I was even born. The establishment did show evident signs of its age but was extremely well-preserved, retaining the essential building blocks of the space, such as its 70-year-old dragon kiln. My host, Stella, was a young, lively lady running her family business, which is currently in its third generation. She sat us down with coffee and local pastries and talked us through the basics of moulding, clay, and wood-firing.

Airbnb pottery clay kiln

We soon got cracking to the first part of the whole experience — hand-building our very own tableware. It turns out you can choose to make anything your heart desires when you're moulding clay with your bare hands. From an unusually large coffee cup to a mini dish to place your earrings, you can craft anything that floats your boat. The possibilities are endless. I didn't feel intimidated or worried about doing a shabby job with Stella's attentive guidance. What was astounding was that everything was put together and sealed in with nothing but pure water. My hands made those cups? Holy sh**. I could safely say I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

Airbnb pottery clay kiln

Next up: The potter's wheel. Cue that iconic scene of Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in Ghost with Unchained Melody playing softly in the background. I was thrilled to get started. Instead of moulding the clay solely with our hands like in the earlier session, here you create it with the help of a spinning wheel surface. All it takes is three seconds — and whoop, a bowl is miraculously pulled up from a blob of clay, all thanks to the motion of the rotating wheel. Mind-blowing. Having said that, crafting through the potter's wheel still requires a certain skill, which all boils down to coordinating your limbs, your leg (stepping on the wheel paddle), and your hands (controlling and shaping the clay). One thing to note is that using the machine does restrict the variability of what you can create. For example, you won't be able to make a fork or spoon out of it. 

After the two (very different) sessions, your creations will then be fired up and sent to either the electric or dragon kiln. The process takes about three months, so the tableware (that you can call your own) will be mailed directly to your address. Good tip to note? Opt for the dragon kiln — it goes through a wood-firing process, which produces unpredictable colours and finishes on your mugs or plates. The result will definitely be a pleasant surprise. 

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