Over the past few days we have had the pleasure of watching a master coil builder create gigantic pots with ease and skill that comes from his 50 years of experience. It’s always inspiring to see the amazing things we can do with clay and to watch people who know so much more than we do in their element. Maybe when I’m 70 I can be like him!
Beauty is a powerful force with the ability to press people into idealized forms. It also has the power to destroy by crushing those who subscribe too deeply to its standards under the pressure to be perfect. The above piece seeks to express this concept.
Hangzhou is such a beautiful place. As I looked across Xihu (West lake) in the evening I saw warmly glowing pagodas to my right and left as a magnificent fountain spouted in front of me. Picturesque mountains in the distance outlined this wonderful scene.
The exhibition that we attended was also really cool. We saw work from nearly every creative field including industrial design, painting, jewelry, and of course ceramics. It was truly an honor to be there, but now I am ready to be back in the studio with new inspiration!
Also, a Chinese TV station doing a special on ceramics interviewed me as I demonstrated throwing techniques, so there you go…I’m famous.
Tomorrow I am off to Hangzhou, a city that Marco Polo once described as “the finest and most splendid city in the world.” While that was quite a long time ago, I still can’t wait to experience it’s famed beauty and see all of the work that artists have prepared for the upcoming exhibition!
Today was a great day. I finished a vase, began a series of shelled creatures, and was selected as one of two students from our group to attend an exhibition in Hangzhou. I think I’m doing something right.
Yixing was a interesting city filled with a variety of its traditional teapots. Yixing teapots are usually small and made of one of five traditional colors of clay including yellow, green, blue, purple, and brown. Some are as simple as a round body with a small spout and thin handle, while others take forms that replicate the natural world in intricate detail. It was amazing to have the opportunity to watch master craftsmen construct these fascinating objects. Several of them also, invited us to have tea as we visited each of their workshops.
Tomorrow we leave for Yixing for five days to see some of the world’s most fantastic teapots. For those of you following my blog to confirm that I am still alive, I won’t be posting until next Wednesday…so fear not. I’m still alive, we just won’t have internet in Yixing.
Above are some photos of my latest work to keep you satisfied in my absence.
Today, a professor from the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute demonstrated traditional Chinese painting with cobalt blue oxide on one of the gigantic ceramic vases that an expert thrower produced earlier during our visit.
Today we had the privilege of watching a master brush maker demonstrate his process for constructing several different types of brushes. This man had over 60 years of experience making fine brushes and his family has been in the brush making industry for 6 generations. Amazing.
Day 19: Dragon Kiln. Ancient Village. Hornet Attack.
Today we visited a location in the countryside that houses a massive dragon kiln. A dragon kiln or snake kiln is a very long, wood fired kiln that is partially above ground and partially below ground. It was amazing to see such a massive structure of ancient design and even more intriguing to imagine its operation.
Following our visit to the dragon kiln, we toured a picturesque, ancient Ming Dynasty village through which a river filled with large koi flows.
Later that night, as I sat down to a Chinese lesson, I felt a sharp pain on my leg. As I pulled up my shorts, I discovered a LARGE hornet that had decided to attack me. I am not fond of these evil, flying creatures and generally make a strong effort to avoid or kill them if we come into contact with one another. So, you can imagine my distress as I flung the assailant to the ground only to discover another one attempting to inject its venom into my body. NOT OKAY. Two hornets in my shorts or anywhere near me are two too many. In case you are curious, a hornet sting feels like the pain of someone pressing on the site of an especially painful injection. An entomologist in Japan equated the pain to that of a “hot nail being driven into his leg.” Lovely, right? I need a bodyguard. The end.
Today was a normal day in the studio until I went on a brief excursion to an area of the city that produces ceramic sculpture. After browsing galleries filled with the usual astoundingly fantastic work, I came across a shop that mass produces small porcelain flowers. After watching the speed and efficiency with which the small family inside created these delicate rosettes, one of the artists invited me to attempt their process. The family spent nearly 30 minutes explaining their methods and showing me how to create the refined petals and then roll them into a perfect blossom.
When I offered to buy one of the flowers, the father instead gave me one of the blooms as a gift and would not accept my money. This was truly a special day.
Today we visited a store that sells ceramic decals, which work like temporary tattoos (except for the fact that they are permanent). You place the decal on clay, apply water, peel the paper away, and you instantly have a beautiful pattern on the side of your piece! I got a bag of them with patterns in black, red, green, cobalt, and gold (my favorite color) for 82元! Excellent. I love gold.
Today we visited the Ancient Kiln Museum where I saw some of the most beautiful work that I have seen on this trip so far. From detailed carving to intricate painting, I saw skill and technique well beyond the abilities of anyone I know.
We also visited a factory that produces handmade and molded porcelain wares including plates, teapots, and vases over 8 feet tall!
Yesterday we had a wheel throwing demonstration from one of the local throwing masters. I had never seen anybody work the way that he does. I saw him make a 25 pound bowl in 2 minutes and one that was probably close to 100 pounds in under 5 minutes. I thought I was really good at ceramics but…wow.
So, I thought it was a 13 hour train ride…but actually it was 18 hours! But, now we are all in Jingdezhen where the ceramics are beautiful and the weather is even hotter than in Shanghai.
The studio here is quite large, but we’re all still getting used to the clay. This is probably the softest porcelain that I have ever used, but I know it will give me great results once I figure it out!
Today we are leaving for Jingdezhen, The City of Porcelain! I can’t even imagine how beautiful this area and the ceramic art that fills it will be. We will find out soon. Now, off for a quick 13 hour train ride.
Today we are venturing to the pearl and jade markets, as well as a few other exciting places with beautiful things for me to acquire.
Yesterday we explored the Shanghai museum which has many great pieces from Jingdezhen where we will be spending the majority of our time working with the bright, clean porcelain that artists have used to make some of the most amazing ceramic pieces. We leave for Jingdezhen on Sunday and I can’t wait to be there, but for now I will go buy jade.
Good Morning. Yes it’s morning here. It seems odd to simply get off a plane and wake up in a different country far far away.
We are spending the first 2 days in Shanghai and will be on our way to Jingdezhen (13 hour train ride!) after that. So far we have not seen a lot of ceramics as Shanghai seems to be an eastern combination of Times Square in New York and the Las Vegas Strip. But as soon as we get to Jingdezhen I expect that to all change.
Today will be spending the morning at the Shanghai National Museum…so I expect that there will be an abundance of beautiful ceramics for my to show you all quite soon.
It is quite hot here and I feel the moisture and numerous street smells sticking to me.