Johor's Claytan ceramics

Ceramic ware in cool colours at the Claytan ceramic centre
Did you know that Johor is home to Malaysia’s leading producer of a full range of high quality fine English earthenware?  Oriental Ceramics, a subsidiary in the Claytan Group of companies, is located at Jalan Kluang near Batu Pahat while it’s sister company, Claytan Fine China, was later set up in Air Hitam to manufacture stoneware, vitreous china tableware and art-ware.

For many families, your first set of crockery may have been one of the wedding gifts.  In fact, some gift sets are so beautiful that they are kept in a display cabinet and used only with special guests.  So it’s about time you discover Claytan ceramic ware that are not only attractive and affordable but also durable enough for daily use.

A range of vintage tea sets and dinner sets
You may have even used the Claytan range of products in restaurants and hotels because the company has a wide distribution in Malaysia and Singapore.  In addition to their own brand products, they also contract manufacture for internationally renowned ceramic manufacturers in the United Kingdom, Europe, USA, Japan and Asian countries.  These brands include leaders like Wedgewood, Churchill, Spode and ARC International. 

The history of the Claytan journey to success began at the turn of the 20th century when Tan Soon Heng, a Teochew craftsman skilled in a 3000-year old tradition of ceramic manufacturing, came to Malaya from the southern province of Guangdong, China.  In 1920 Tan and a few friends started a small cottage workshop to produce earthen jars in Segambut, Kuala Lumpur.  Later in 1925 he established his own business, Ban Hoe Huat Pottery in Bachang, Malacca to produce ceramic cups for latex collection.

Stoneware crockery [Foreground] and vintage tea sets

In 1935 when clay deposits were discovered in Johor, Tan’s enterprising spirit led him to move to Air Hitam.  With a team of only 15 workers, he set up a manufacturing plant to produce subsoil pipes and latex cups to supply to the rubber industry in south Malaya.  This was the humble beginning of Johore Pipe Company that grew to specialise in the manufacture of vitrified clay pipes.

At the demise of Tan in 1958, his son Tan Chong Cheng took over the business and developed it into a brand and group of companies renowned as the most diversified ceramic manufacturer in Malaysia.  Clay Industries was established in 1965 for the manufacture of sanitary-ware and in 1975, Oriental Ceramics started to produce art-ware, tableware and hotel-ware.  In 1983 the Group expanded its vitrified clay pipes production with the setting up of JPC-Intan and Claytan Fine China (Tableware) in 1995. 

A choice of colourful ceramic sanitary ware

When they introduced cutting-edge ceramics manufacturing technologies from Japan and Europe, the Claytan Group gained recognition as a leading ceramics producer for high quality ceramic ware with the most diversified product range in the country.  

Products are manufactured in compliance with international quality standards and guaranteed to be lead and cadmium safe, as well as oven, microwave oven and dishwasher safe.  They are safe for regular use as there is no toxic release even when used to serve boiling soup and hot food.

Covered casserole dishes designed with cute
country motifs
While many people choose to use plastic, enamel or melamine ware, some must eat from a matching set of ceramic tableware.  If you are among those who enjoy using colour-coordinated ceramic ware, you can buy complete sets of Claytan tableware in the latest designs from their showrooms and major department stores.  Another alternative is to visit the Claytan ceramic centre located along Jalan Johor in Air Hitam. 

Here’s where you will find a wide range of tableware, vases, garden deco as well as sanitary ware to complement your home or business.  Products are displayed on open racks so that customers can browse conveniently to pick their choices.  You will see that the export quality merchandise stocked here is from past seasons and excess runs. 

Serving platter in a chicken design
This is where you can buy any number of quality tableware items that meets your fancy.  While tea or dinner sets are usually for even numbers like four, six or eight, you can select matching sets of cups, bowls or plates for the odd number in your family or group of guests.  Here’s also where you are likely to find the replacements for items in your vintage dinner or tea set that were accidentally broken or chipped. 

So if you are near Air Hitam, visit the ceramic centre open from 10am to 6pm daily except Tuesday once a month and on compulsory Public Holidays.  Payment is by cash only.  Be prepared to spend time browsing and don’t be surprised if you come away with a few best buys!  Call Tel: 019 – 762 7216.  Website:

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 5 January 2012

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