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|Carol and Richard were invited by
Takeshi Yasada to the residency program at The Pottery|
Workshop in Jingdezhen,China. We spent one month there from March 16th to April 16th, 2006.
It was an incredible experience. We made lots of work using the different kinds of porcelain
clays there and explored a number of new (to us) techniques. We were well looked after and
helped by Takeshi and his talented staff. This is a pictorial account of our month long
adventure in China. The first portion is about the Pottery Workshop Facility and our work
there, including our daily routine. The second half is about the techniques and processes
that are special to Jingdezhen. Their ways of working are often different to the work done
in North America and Europe.
The entrance to the workshop on a sunny day.
We had many during our month stay.
The large lower studio which contains power
equipment,a gas kiln and woodworking tools.
| We started our adventure from
our home studio in Edmonton, Alberta, but first we should give the information
that Takeshi sent to us which made us want to come to China. It is indeed what
Takeshi called a "potter's wonderland".|
" Jingdezhen PWS Experimental Factory is a newly created ceramics design studio and residential artists studio. It is situated at the site of the old National Porcelain Company, Sculpture Factory. Jingdezhen has been the world centre for porcelain production continuously for last 1000 years. This new Experimental Factory is surrounded by hundreds of small and independent craftsmen and artists with every kind of ceramic skill, clay producers, throwers, sculptors, mould makers, blue and white decorators, over glaze decorators, glaze and colour shops, kiln firing workshops, brush makers, black smiths, box makers and shippers.
Objects made here are from fingernail size to twelve feet high, all in porcelain. We are right in the middle of a hive of activity. Jingdezhen PWS Experimental Factory Residential Studio Program offers an Air-conditioned Studio that is well equipped with excellent facilities including a fully kitted glaze laboratory. US$200/week fee will cover the use of the studio and its facilities; use of an electric wheel and a work table, tools, bats and boards, 50kg of porcelain clay, basic glazes and firing, also full board (lunch & dinner, except on Sundays) accommodation with flush toilets and a hot shower.
There is also a free wireless broadband Internet connection available. We recommend you to bring your own personal hand tools although you can buy basic tools here. Also we have some wood and metal work facilities. If you need more clay, special glazes, stains or over glaze enamels, you can buy from near by suppliers at extremely modest price. To travel to Jingdezhen from overseas it is best to fly to Shanghai. You may need to stay a night in Shanghai to take one of daily morning flights to Jingdezhen. Travel takes an hour to Jingdezhen."
The contact information for The Pottery Workshop is http://www.potteryworkshop.com.cn/english/jingdezhen/home.html
|After an eleven hour flight from
Vancouver, we overnighted in a nice inexpensive hotel in Shanghai. The next
morning we arrived early at the smoggy Shanghai domestic airport for our flight
to Jingdezhen. |
7am. and all is smoggy.
Carol catches a brief rest before boarding
Although one million people live in and around
Jingdezhen, the airport is very modest but efficient.
We were met by Libby Lee and Jiangbo as well
as Mr. Hu, our faithful driver of the workshop van.
This bronze statue is about 20 meters from
the workshop entrance.
The workshop, office and gallery are located
on the third and forth floors of a building
in the Jingdezhen Sculpture Factory Complex.
This is the entrance to the lower workshop
space on the left and the kitchen, dining area
as well as three resident rooms on the second
floor on the right.
The kitchen dining area with cook in the
background preparing lunch or dinner
for ten to fifteen people.
Mr. Hu, our proud driver, who picked us up
every morning in Sanbao and nearly washed
the paint off the van in keeping it spotless.
The rooftop view with smokestacks (old coal
fired kilns no longer in use), from the balcony
of the studio where we worked.
|We were shown around the studio,
unpacked our bags, had lunch and got settled into our workspace. Takeshi
arrived the next day from Britain and we three took up residency in our
landlord's house in Sanbao which is 6 kilometres from the workshop in town.
Sanbao is a beautiful village with lots of the old China in evidence both
physically and in the daily routines of the people.|
Carol and Takeshi in front of the landlord's
house with it's distinctive fence made from
Takeshi working on his large project of slip
cast porcelain cups for a museum in Britain.
The cooking and washing courtyard of our
landlord's house in San Bao.
A typical breakfast at our San Bao home.
The crepe pancakes were very special.
|Our daily routine was being
awakened by the village roosters and then having hot showers, breakfast with
Takeshi and learning new Chinese words from our landlord, Jiang Min Ai. He
works for Jackson Lee as his construction foreman. He also makes wonderful
bamboo pottery tools, furniture and implements. After the sumptuous breakfast,
Mr. Hu would arrive to take us to the studio. We passed from the pastoral areas
of San Bao to the bustle of Jingdezhen.|
Misty morning San Bao view with old factory
in the background on the left.
The house across the narrow street of San
Bao from our balcony.
Our landlady selecting greens from the
He departs after his daily sale.
Traditional chair made by our landlord,
Jiang Min Ai.
The little neice of Jiang Min Ai.
|We did alot of shopping and
exploring around the town, often with Joey or Jiangbo. Both have good English
and were really helpful, both for showing us the wonders of Jingdezhen and
teaching us how to bargain successfully. Joey loves antiquities and spends much
of his income on acquiring Chinese cultural artifacts. He really appreciates
the history of his country.|
Carol and Joey Zhao in an antique shop
examine huge porcelain planters.
Carol posed by a large blue and white
Joey and Carol in the pottery market.
The shard market with Song Dynasty saggers
lined with fused translucent porcelain bowls.
Vendors and observers gather around
Joey at the shard market.
One of Richard's favorite sellers. She drives
a hard bargain but often has great Song
|The shard market was full of
modern works as well as fakes (very believable) and whole pots and very
desirable shards from recent excavations. They were building all the time in
Jingdezhen and often on sites with old kiln remains.|
Sometimes the saggers would be fused
together - almost always the bowl inside was
fused to the sagger. The saggers were often
cut apart with a diamond saw.
Carol, Wan Li Ya and Joey at the shard
market, which is really a vacant lot with
vendors and ware on blankets.
A blanket with many carved Song Dynasty
bowls. Almost all had a crack or foot flaw
and the most expensive ones might be $25
Carol in her work area and a view of the
studio. In the background on the right are
some of Caroline Cheng's porcelain bottle
vases destined for the gallery in Shanghai.
|There are three Pottery
Workshops, one in Hong Kong, another in Shanhai and the latest one in
Jingdezhen. Caroline Cheng, herself a ceramic artist, is the owner and was at
Jingdezhen the first two days we were there. She also came back for a brief two
day visit during our one month stay.|
Jesse Small, an Alfred MFA grad and
resident artist for about three months, is
working on his calligraphy studies.
An overglaze enamel painter
hired by Jesse to paint gold and
enamel designs on Jesse's slip cast
porcelain "ghost" sculptures.
|Joey took us to glaze street, where we picked out an amazing sample of
coloured high fire glazes. We also went to the brush shop and to the overglaze
and underglaze decal shops. We also did alot of shopping for overglaze enamel
colours and overglaze enamel gold. The gold place was abit like Fort Knox, with
an armed guard at the gate where you had to show the receipt for the gold
The glaze shop on glaze street, with an
incredible array of colour samples. We could
take home the dry mixture with the proper
wet glaze compliment for mixing. They also
sold large and small (plastic pop bottles)
quantities of the many colours available.
Joey petting the cat at the best brush shop
where we watched the father making brushes.
Joey introduced us to his glaze painter friend
who did amazing brush work and helped Carol
with the concentrations of some of the colours
used at 1330C.
Peking sculptor, Wan Li Ya, with overglaze
enamel painter working on one of his large tile
works. Wan Li Ya has worked in Europe and
was just finishing a residency at the Pottery
Workshop. He has established a studio close
to the workshop and plans to spend two months
twice a year working on designs in Jingdezhen.
We had a number of presentation boxes made
by these excellent makers of brocade silk
boxes. We have them for porcelain plates
and tea bowls which we made in Jingdezhen.
An impromtue streetside brush
|The Pottery Workshop hosts a slide night and lecture every Friday
evening. Most attendees are students and faculty at the Ceramic Institute. The
second Friday that we were there, we showed our movie, "Clay in Hand"(
by Karvonen Films in 2006) and presented a slide lecture from our website. The
Friday before we left, our friend, Janet DeBoos, the head of ceramics at
ANU(Australia National University) gave a talk about her work and the design
work she has been making with a porcelain factory in China.|
Takeshi Yasuda in the front row of the
packed house for our presentation.
In China everything is celebrated with
firecrackers and the ground afterwords is
a testament to some "important" event -
new car, birth of a baby, store opening
Spring in semi-tropical San Bao can include
warm days and cool monsoonish deluges. This
is the river by the road from San Bao
This is the river after a whole night of
hard rain, thunder and lightning.
|We learned a Buddhist lesson in
letting go in Jingdezhen, China. With the intense construction and
thunderstorms, there are often brown outs for several hours. Some days when we
came to the studio, we wished we had kick wheels. Sometimes kilns weren't fired
because it rained too much and not enough of the big sculptures were dry or the
government had cut off the piped gas to the pipe gas kiln for a reason no one
seemed to be able to understand. Once the plane couldn't land because of a
thunderstorm and the Swedish couple with two small children came back to the
landlord's place at midnight and stayed an extra two days awaiting the next
regular plane flight.|
Wan Li Ya painting one of his mysterious
self portrait porcelain sculptures.
Carol and Takeshi at the opening show we
were in with the other workshop participants
at Wan Li Ya's new studio, on Richard's
Supper in our kitchen at the Pottery
Workshop with a birthday cake for
Richard's sixty-third birthday.
Delicious sponge cake with turquoise icing.
Firecrackers in celebration of Richard's
birthday and the opening of Wan Li Ya's
studio.The studio has a fireplace and
is very cozy.
Jesse Small in front of two of Wan Li Ya's
large tile paintings.
Wan Li Ya poses with another of his self
portrait mysterious sculptures.
Jing Jing's work area in the studio.
|For six days a week we were fed
by cook at the kitchen at the Pottery Workshop. On Sunday, his day off, we
usually ate as a group and sampled noodles, buns, dumplings and soup for lunch.
Later in the day we had a special dinner treat...Korean, Sechuan, Mongolian and
Jackson Lee's restuarant at San Bao|
The food shops on food alley near the Ceramic
Institute where we often had Sunday lunch.
Carol with one of the landlady's
The Sunday that we went to Yaoli, an ancient
pottery kiln site town, we had lunch at a
restaurant where a chicken was presented
(like a fine wine) for our approval.
The soup preparers poured boiling
water on the dead chicken for plucking.
Takeshi is ladling delicious fresh chicken soup,
while Carol and Libby look on.
Richard's soup bowl with an impromtu
sculpture in honour of our chicken guest.
|The range of things made in
porcelain in Jingdezhen is truly mind |
boggling. The scale and use diversity is wide ranging.
Joey stands next to blue and white porcelain
lamp posts. The whole town is fitted out with
them, sometimes with peach fruit and
Libby Lee bought a whole box of tiny
translucent porcelain bird watering vessels
at the shard market and Carol did an ink
drawing of the tiny still life.
Xu Lin Feng posing with his impressive jeep.
He was a great help in the purchase of
machines and renovations to the expanding
studio. He is also an excellent wood
fire functional potter.
Carol's birthday with Libby Lee who organized
the cake and showed Carol lots of information
about overglaze enamel painting.
Working with two of the porcelain clays there was at first challenging. We started with the
"sculpture" body which was not bad for throwing and trimming but would not stand well if
thrown wide and flared. We understand why they throw thick and trim so much. The other
body "super white" was also a bit short and needed careful attention to trimming. It was
possible to trim soft with nice loose effects but once at the cheese hard state the trimming
resulted in the chunking off of the porcelain in kurd like bits. They of course wait till it is
nearly bone dry and re-wet with a brush of water and trim in a hard footed way.
Some of our work awaiting glazes and
plaster molds down below.
Constructed porcelain vessels drying.
Many of these were trailed with raised
porcelain casting slip decoration.
Two bottle forms we painted to test the
colours. Carol's painting on the left and
Richard's on the right.
Some of the large plates and constructed
vase forms with the Luang Chun glaze.
It was very valuable to see the work of the other residents and staff both past
and present. There was a great variety of styles and approaches.
Painted birds on a piece from another
A view of Joey Zhao's workspace
with many of his " Industrial
Large hand made tiles (sometimes 8 by
12 feet) which are then glazed and fired
with a transparent or celadon glaze. They
then become the canvasses for overglaze
Wan Li Ya's tile featuring a beggar and a
golfer. He said, "They both use sticks."
Joey's work area with some of the disc
molds I made and left. Back right is a
painted plate from one of our firings
Libby's area where she is working on a
"bird" piece using the small pieces from
the shard market which she has painted
with over-glaze enamels
Our medium and large sized plates with
underglaze cobalt decals and figurative
painting on sprayed glaze awaiting firing
One of the many trolley shuttle gas kilns firing
in Jingdezhen. We fired our work in these kilns,
sometimes to 1300C and sometimes to 1330C.
They crash cool these kilns for brilliant colours,
usually depending on how many large deity
sculptures are in the load. The turn around time
is one day - loading to unloading.
Some of our pieces loaded in the "pipe gas"
kiln which was delayed.
These pieces were fired with many
dieties including Mao.
Big buddas, rams and round vases stacked
with our flattened pieces.
Our farewell dinner with many of
our Jingdezhen friends
Xu, Andrea, Carol and Jiangbo outside the
Ancient Pottery Kiln Museum in Jingdezhen.
We toured the facility and watched old
techniques being demonstrated.
Bowls thrown off the hump of porcelain
on a stick powered wheel.
After a brush of water the dry bowl
is trimmed and footed.
One stroke and a twist applies a fine band
all the way around the bowl.
Deft decorating almost like automatic writing.
Glaze painting on tile.
Thrown and trimmed ware awaits
glazing on drying racks.
Dipping stick allows quick glazing of
the outside of the raw bowl.
Bowl is diped in glaze after being decorated.
San Bao boy having his breakfast. A pile of
the "china stone" which will be hammered
to a powder to be porcelain when
mixed with kaolin.
China stone "pounders" site on the
river in San Bao. We could hear them
all night long every day.
The river water is directed to the water wheels
A view of the machinery of the
pounders from above.
The spokes on the timber axel depress
and release the pounder shafts as
the axel rotates.
Tanks for hydrating the china stone.
Carol next to the pounding pit gives
an idea of the scale.
Stone in foreground is broken with a hammer
before chunks are put in pounder pits.
Water from split bamboo lubricates
the axel bearing.
|We had many underglaze cobalt
decals made after looking through books of |
samples. They are printed on a small etching press.
The plate is inked with the cobalt glaze slip.
Decal sheet is ready for the press
Printed sheet is lifted from the plate
These are sample pots
adorned with the decal papers
|Takeshi took us to see some
pottery factories which |
operate in the old National Porcelain Factory site.
The gate of the old factory site
One of the shuttle kilns with its
load of tall fired vases.
Four workers shifting and pouring
bodies of the slip cast vases.
Back breaking work to empty
the large mold.
The split half molds have pipe handles for the
four workers to move them to the drying area.
The molds and castings are dried
with a charcoal in bucket heater.
Once removed from the mold the body is
turned on a trimming wheel where it is
brushed with water and a level joining
surface is turned.
A cup of slip is applied to the
top of the dry body. The two
part joined jiggered vase tops
are in the background.
The tops of the vases are jiggered.
These jiggered pieces are then paired up to
form the vase top addition.
After placing the top on the base, the
unit is trimmed to form a continuous
The trimmer carries the finished form
to the drying area.
|The vases were all raw glazed but
decorated in a few different ways.|
Underglaze decals were used on most,
applied freely in a collage style to a pre
moistened spot and then the wet
Sometimes the deco was from a ponced
template and then hand painted and at other
times a carved deco was used.
They were all sprayed with glaze.
This exhuast fan was a joke.
The glazed ware was loaded on the
kiln very close together after the
bottoms were wiped.
Some of the finished vases await
transport to market.
This is a morning's production of the heavy
thrown and then trimmed vases at another
factory. They will put plastic tarps over
because of threatening rain.
Turned and carved tall vases in the
"heavy thrown" factory.
A typical ware cart with "straw shoes"
transporting porcelain in Jingdezhen.
Worker in slip cast jar factory cuts
off flashing on cast lids.
Some small deity sculptures in
our factory area.
|The usual method of throwing
pieces in Jingdezhen is to throw |
thick and then trim and join when almost bone dry.
Finished bottle vase after joining of two parts
Fast throwing of bottle vase.
Centering, coning and opening the
Heavy cylinder to be made into rounded
Opening and refining the rounded shape.
Using a rib to expand the body.
Final shape and measuring of finished size.
Trimming the dry vase, both inside
and out, in a trimming chuck.
Trimming the leveled join
area for the addition of the top.
Slip added to dry body to adhere top section.
Thrown bottle top section centered
on body in trimming chuck.
Trimming the joined contour.
|The work going on all around the
Pottery Workshop was mostly sculpture, making, |
firing and over-glaze painting. We learned alot about the properties of the porcelain
from watching these people and their work. Much of the mold work was
transported in the raw state regardless of its incredible size.
Mao, the deity, comes in many different
configurations, but this benevolent deity
often starts with the same pair of pants
"Straw shoes" packing Lion Dog
and Bird sculptures for transport
to then be glazed with over-glaze
Larger than life, Kuan Yin, being worked
on by Wan Li Ya's over-glaze enamel
painter in another workshop.
Press molding a portion of
Kuan Yin's body in plaster mold.
|We were invited for lunch to San
Bao at Jackson Lee's Pottery Center. We had purchased |
kiln shelves from Jackson last year and Richard had met Jackson in Ohio in 1999.
We had a wonderful lunch and a tour of the facility, bought some tools and will in future
exhibit in one of Jackson's shows in Jingdezhen.
The creek running through Jackson's compound.
One of Jackson's floor mosaics made
from ancient pottery shards.
Jackson has many antiques in this
beautiful rural setting. It is really a
beautiful vista of old China.
An assortment of Jackson's kitchen
A few of Jackson's many collected Song
An anagama kiln ready for firing at San Bao.
Even the bathrooms were adorned
with exquisite pots and flowers.
Old vase and ancient horse
trough at Jackson's.
Another large antique vase
from Jackson's collection.
View of Jackson's large
|Our landlord, Jiang Min Ai, made
bamboo furniture and tools. Our last morning there, he |
made a traditional carrying stick, which he gave to Richard. It was fascinating to watch his
skilled handling of this material.
He first sawed the ends of a piece
He used a draw knife plane to
smooth the joins in the bamboo.
After eyeing the bamboo to get the shape
to fit the shoulder, he split off about one
third over the length of the piece.
He used the draw knife plane to
refine the edges of the piece.
After cutting two notches at the ends,
he tapered and smoothed the piece.
Jiang Min Ai looks up as he completes
the carrying stick.
Blooming Azalea on the balcony
of the Pottery Workshop upper studio.
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