It has been a good week and my friends and I have been traveling around the city, seeing many things. Here is a recap:
On May 10th, we visited the studio of Carola Zee. She has designed a new collection named Label Aleph (http://www.labelaleph.com) and is producing the work in Jingdezhen. Her space is located in an old school building with wonderful natural light.
That same afternoon, there was a gallery opening for the artist Dr. Naoko Yehenara (www.naokoyehenara.com). Her work combines a Japanese aesthetic with Jingdezhen porcelain and local bright glazes.
On Sunday, May 12th, we visited the calligrapher Bryan Mulvihill (worldteaparty.com) in his studio in the Sanbao compound.
He makes beautiful brush paintings on paper and they are draped all over the room.
Bryan lives part time in Delhi,India and when he is away, the ceramist Shin Koyama uses the space also.
Bryan's gorgeous collection of calligraphy brushes.
On early Monday morning, May 13th, we went with the young artist Jiāo Hān to the Shard market, a huge flea market. Unless one goes with someone who is really knowledgeable, there are a good deal of fake pieces being marketed as genuine. It was fun to see the chaos.
Vendor after vendor lay out their "antique" pots, though I am sure there are some real old pieces in there.
Afterwards, Jiāo Hān took us to her studio. Her work table has a great clay sunflower.
On Tuesday morning, we visited the large tile district. In this part of the city, the factories are dedicated to the fabrication of enormous tiles that are used for making wall murals and installations. In the photo below, a man is making a smaller sized tile. Everything is rolled out by hand. He places a roll of clay on a sheet of damp fabric and flattens it with a rolling pin between two metal rods that determine the height of the tile.
After the width is completed, he will trim the length with a knife to make the tile the correct measurement.
He then picks up the cloth under the flattened tile and holding clay and cloth together, takes the finished piece outside. He flips the tile off of the fabric and lets it dry on huge tables that are beds of clay powder.
Then the tiles are finished drying vertically to prevent warping.
We also went to the factory that makes tile 5 meters long. It is the largest tile factory in the world. Ten workers pound 400 kilos of clay into a long roll. As in the smaller tile factory, the clay is rolled out onto a sheet of damp fabric. We didn't actually see this, as the foreman of the company then got quite hostile and stopped us from taking photos. He demanded money for us to watch, so we left. Here you can see the size of the table bed and the clay logs being assembled. There was a dry clay bed table adjacent and I was sorry not to see them flip this huge piece of clay.
Next to the factories are studios where artists paint the tiles. Tiles can be painted with cobalt while they are green and before they are fired, as in this room.
Others paint with over glaze on the already fired and glazed tiles. These people were making a mural installation for a hotel.
Here is one of the many kilns that fire these enormous tiles.
On Tuesday afternoon, I had a lesson with the blue and white painter Huang Fei. I will visit his studio this Saturday and will have more on his work then. He taught me about the painting styles of the different dynasties. An interesting factor was the ability for the Chinese to get cobalt from the Middle East. The openness of the Silk Route had a large impact on the local ceramic painters and their painting style.
As we walked along the street, trucks with pots whizzed by. I loved this one especially.
And in the midst of production, there are markets and restaurants for the workers to eat and cook. If you would like to see additional photos, I have been posting on instagram - http://instagram.com/francespalmer.