Spin & Gogh Blog
“Why don’t you use locally produced clay or color (glaze), it would be much cheaper and lower the cost for your customers, right?”
Since opening Spin & Gogh almost one year ago, we have been asked this question countless times. The answer to this question is the foundation to who we are as a company. Yes, it would be much cheaper and easier to simply source local clay and glazes. Vietnam has a pottery tradition that dates back thousands of years. But, what we know now about the health dangers of lead, heavy metals, and other toxins has changed the way we need to approach pottery.
I will briefly touch on lead as that is most often in the headlines today. You can find any number of scholarly articles on the effect lead has on mental development in children (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3909981/) and the effects are widely known. This is why there has been a push to ban lead in many products such as semiconductors, paint, and gasoline in the United States. Unfortunately, the ceramics industry has been slow in adopting the lead-free standards because lead based glazes, etc are much cheaper and easier to produce. As a result, glazes containing lead are almost exclusively still being used in countries that have not banned them outright (China, Vietnam, etc.).
The problem with lead is that it not only remains on your item after it is finished firing, but the firing process itself vaporizes a portion of the lead and releases it into the atmosphere where it is then inhaled by unsuspecting children and adults. We, at Spin & Gogh will not use these products as we are concerned about the consequences of lead and heavy metal poisoning. We routinely test our products for traces of lead and we will remove the products or suppliers if they test positive. As a result, we have chosen to import all of our products from the US where the suppliers are prohibited by law from using lead and other heavy metals. As to the danger of heavy, metals, the all too recent scandal involving Chinese children’s toys containing lead, cadmium, and assorted other heavy metals should be a reminder of just how prevalent these dangers are today.
So, that is why we import our glaze from the US. We simply do not want to take a risk with the health of our customers and potential exposure of our employees. As to clay, the same property that makes it magical in the spa/health community – the ability to trap and draw out toxins – is the source of our concern. While it is accurate that after firing the clay under high temperature, the majority of the toxins may be destroyed by the high temperatures during the firing process, that is not the same as the exposure you receive while you are actually making your pottery piece. Basically, you directly exposing yourself to any toxins that the clay has trapped over the years as you work the clay with your hands. With the advent of modern warfare in the last half century using known cancer causing chemicals such as defoliants, those toxins released are now embedded in the clay and soil of the countries where these conflicts have taken place. So, by using these clays, you are risking exposure to these toxins. Again, we are committed to the health of our customers so we will not compromise on this point.
In addition to the health aspects, we believe our clay and glaze offer consistently superior performance as it is all cone matched so it fires with less warping and cracking. This is more important for professional potters than for beginners but it does help take out some of the guess work in the process.
So to once again answer the original question, YES, it would be much easier and cheaper for us to use local products if money was our only consideration. Believe me, I would love to not have to coordinate container shipments. However, the health and safety of our staff, customers, and ourselves remains our top priority so we simply cannot use these products today.
Posted by James