Monday 5 August 2013

Dragon kilns given new lease of life

Last two such kilns can stay put in Jurong for initial 3-year term, which is renewable for another two terms
By Melody Zaccheus, The Sunday Times, 4 Aug 2013

Operators of the two remaining dragon kilns here that were slated to make way for redevelopment can now breathe easy, knowing that they can stay put at their homes in Jurong.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) will extend the leases of Thow Kwang Industry and Focus Ceramic Services for an initial term of three years. These will be renewable for another two terms of three years each.

The fate of the kilns has been hanging in the balance for the last 20 years.

It was previously reported that the sites on which the two kilns sit, at 85 and 97L Lorong Tawas, formed part of the government land bank awaiting long-term development.

The National Heritage Board (NHB), which was approached by SLA in May to conduct an assessment of the heritage value of the site, had championed the tenure extensions of the kilns.

NHB group director of policy Alvin Tan said the two dragon kilns - from the 1940s and 1950s - are a unique part of Singapore's pottery history.

"The kilns are also of artistic value as they are presently used by local artists to provide a unique glaze for their works which could only be achieved through traditional wood-firing," said Mr Tan.

The SLA will facilitate the continued on-site operations of the kilns.

The news comes as relief for second-generation owner Tan Teck Yoke, 58, of Thow Kwang Industry. "With nine more years, we can do even more to promote the heritage and culture of the kilns."

Mr Tan, who currently pays $5,000 in rent to the SLA for the 5,000 sq m site, added that he has plans to set up a heritage gallery as well.

The extended tenure means that his neighbour, Focus Ceramic Services, will also get to go ahead with a $50,000 upgrading plan for its pottery equipment.

The operator of Singapore's longest dragon kiln, it had earlier this year finalised the extension of its lease for another two years, till 2015.

Artist Steven Low, 47, said another nine years on the tenure will help the local ceramic scene.

"Without our own kilns in Singapore, artists like myself would have to travel overseas to fire up our work," he said. "It would also have been an incredible loss of heritage."


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