The ceramic industry went through several ups and downs. Initially, it produced pots, bowls and jars for local use. After the Second World War, as the rubber industry boomed, there was a demand for latex cups. Bricks were also made for local construction needs. With the growth of the orchid export trade in the 1979s, production switched to flower pots.
Later, falling demand due to rising production costs forced many kilns to close in the 1980s and 1990s. Of these, only the Thow Kwang and Guan Huat dragon kilns in Jalan Bahar have survived, but their business models have changed to focus on providing workshops and facilities for ceramic artists and enthusiasts rather than producing commercial products.
Last, but not least, mention should be made of Ming Village. This was a private enterprise set up in the early 1980s. It established a factory and showroom in Pandan Road, to produce hand painted Ming dynasty style porcelain replicas for sale. Experts were recruited from Taiwan to teach local trainees on porcelain production, and visitors to the factory could see the entire process from moulding to glazing. The business model was reliant on purchases by tourists, but unfortunately, due to various factors, the business went through several changes of ownership, and has remained dormant for some time now.
Despite the dismal state of commercial production today, the local studio pottery scene is fairly vibrant. This year in 2020, there are at least 10 places in Singapore that offer pottery classes for the public. There is also a lively community of ceramic artists, some of whom have attained high standards of practice as exemplified by the Cultural Medallion recipient Mr Iskandar Jalil who has long used local clay found in places like Alexandra, Seletar and Tampines.
So, talent and raw materials are not lacking here. Can Singapore one day boast of having its own version of Jingdezhe?