Ngoc Phan is the Master Mold Maker for Louisville Stoneware, a Louisville-based company dedicated to the craft of transforming clay into enduring, functional stoneware pottery art forms since 1815. Louisville Stoneware’s iconic ceramic penguins are available for sale in the 21c Museum Shop and online.
Are you a native of Louisville? If not, how did you end up here?
I am a native of Vietnam. I relocated to Louisville through the Catholic Charities after the fall of Saigon. I was an engineer in my hometown of Hue City, Vietnam. In Louisville, I earned a degree in Architecture. My passion is creating something from nothing, taking an idea and seeing it become reality in my hands. I’ve been the Master Mold Maker for Louisville Stoneware for many years and I’m training my son as my apprentice. My daughter also works here as a painter.
How did Louisville Stoneware begin?
In 1815, we began creating functional storage containers for the frontier city of Louisville. Travelers heading west would stock up on supplies and the only storage containers that would protect their precious cargo of sugar, flour or whiskey were made of stoneware. As the 19th century came to a close, heavy stoneware crocks and jugs fell out of favor and tin cans and glass containers became the storage containers of choice. Within the next decade most of the Stoneware factories in the United States would close their doors. As we entered the 20th Century, Stoneware transformed the pottery into a major supplier of dishware, flowerpots and bakeware for the exploding middle class of Louisville. Today, as a small, locally owned business with just over three-dozen employees, the product that our Stoneware Art Factory makes in our Paristown Pointe location is used by customers around the country and the world. As our team takes one of the last remaining great American pottery companies into its third century of business, an important part of our mission is educating the public about our rich history and drawing attention to the artists who hand make and paint every piece.
What do love about living in Louisville? Why is it good for your business?
Louisville was a very welcoming town for me as a refugee of war. It has been a great place to raise a family, making it easy to call my adopted city “home.” Louisville embraces its history and is loyal to its local businesses. Being part of the legacy of Louisville manufacturing has created incredible brand loyalty for us. And the city’s fostering of the arts has brought us incredible talent over the years.