At the end of an alley in District 3 you will come across Hey Camel Ceramics. In there you will find stylishly designed pottery and you will have the chance to dig your hands into clay and, who knows, become an artist. We spent a morning getting to know the founder and creative director, Leandro Marcelino.
From a Remote Archipelago to Vietnam
Born in the Canary Islands, Spain, Leandro developed an early passion for art which led to him becoming a ceramic artist.
“When I was 17 I decided to join arts school and learn photography,” he explains. “I really like to show other people my vision, the ideas that run through my mind.”
A few years ago he moved to Vietnam where he joined a ceramics studio, learnt this new art and “found a new way of self-expression after many years”. This would result in a perfect way to reveal his roots by imprinting the influences and traditions of his home region on his work. By accumulating pieces, and with no room left at his house to store them, together with good reactions from customers in artisan markets, he decided to start Hey Camel Ceramics.
The Rising of the Pot
Camouflaged in a corridor of walls covered with colourful plants and flowers, the facade of this studio imposes its own harmony with elegance and style. Inside, a peaceful room, shelves and a table cover the space where plants, mugs and plates rest, and even old town-style little Saigon houses — perfect to get as a beautiful souvenir and provide your home with a bit of creativity — are exposed with delicacy as artwork waiting to be admired.
“I want to offer the opportunity to my customers to feel a special connection with the pieces, and also have a meaningful theme related to local culture,” explains Leandro. “The name of Hey Camel Ceramics was inspired by my roots and where I come from. The Canary Islands have long been a home to camels, where they have served an important role in the transport of wares for trading merchants in the past.
“The camels therefore represent an important link between the cultural exchange that takes place between the traders. Likewise, I like to think that my brand is a celebration of different cultural influences.”
Looking at his work, which is constantly growing — he just designed some cool handbags with drawings of his work and another of his passions; cacti — you might wonder where he gets his inspirations from.
“Every trip I make, every little corner of a town, the creamy colours of the walls, the cobalt blue of their ceramics. I also get inspired by many symbols of religious objects, such as incense holders, offering wares, etc.”
However, Leandro has more to offer. The back of his studio is set aside for workshops where he teaches pottery. During the weekends, he offers classes for VND450,000 which include all the materials necessary to give shape to whatever you might have in mind. So come over, let your creativity flow and head back home with a few cool cups to drink your tra da from, or a bowl for your pho.
And if you have any time left, check the upstairs floor — Hey Camel Bazaar is also the home of Saigon Leather Workshop, another creative space, run by Adina Weinand.
Leandro never stops; he has also been involved in projects such as the recent collaboration with designer Paloma Wool from Spain, and expects many more ventures in the future.
Hey Camel Ceramics is at 116/19A Tran Quoc Toan, Q3, HCMC and opens from 11am to 5pm