My first two weeks
Two weeks ago I arrived in this magical place. Since then I have seen and experienced so much that I want to share it with you.
I am doing really well here. The Pottery Workshop, where I am doing my residency, is an amazing place. We are currently 8 artists from Sweden, the Netherlands, the US, Wales, Australia, Switzerland, and Turkey. All of us are older, artists in our own rights. The staff is wonderful and helps us find our way in this maze of porcelain world. Jingdezhen has about 1.5 million people, and it seems like the whole town is centered on ceramics. There are little shops in every little nook and you can buy porcelain, tools, brushes, glazes, and of course lots and lots of finished wares from tiny tea cups to vases much taller than me.
But what is really fascinating are all the craftsmen who have their tiny shops all around the Pottery Workshop, which by the way is located within the old sculpture factory that made propaganda sculptures during Mao’s time. Here you find model makers (meaning you can take a drawing to them and they will carve a 3D model out of plaster), mold makers (where you take your own hand made masters out of black modeling clay or the above mentioned model to have a plaster mold made), slip casters (they use your mold to cast 1000s of pieces if you want to in porcelain), and of course the public gas kilns that fire at an alarmingly high speed to almost cone 14 (cone 10 is 2345 degrees Fahrenheit). I forgot to mention the blue cobalt underglaze painters, the glazing people, and the overglaze painters (the very intricate and colorful decoration that makes Chinese ceramics so wonderful).
My days are usually filled to the brim. It is 10pm now. My day: in the morning Snow, one of our two Chinese assistants, one other artist and I took a taxi (the taxi rides are hair raising) to a local decal store and then gold factory where I bought some gold luster for my work. Next the walk home through some auspicious side streets and back to the studio where I worked until lunch, which is served in the dining hall (excellent Chinese food and nothing like what we get at home). By the way, the studio is very big with lots of light and space and has 12 studio spaces all together.
After lunch Caroline and I took our lives in both hands and bicycled to a tool store where we bought beautiful brushes. It was the third sunny day since I got here, so bicycling was ok but the traffic is unsettling scary.
Back to the studio and worked for a bit. I am working on four different projects. Two slip cast and two hand built. At three it was time to walk several times to and from the slip caster to pick up my pieces plus the molds. After dinner with the whole gang, back to the studio where most of us worked until 9pm. Sooooooo, that is a normal day for me here. But oftentimes we work until 11pm or midnight and are having a really good time doing so.
I love the atmosphere, the support from the other artists, and to be immersed in a culture and place that has centered around porcelain for over 1000 years. I am so grateful to be here.
I will keep you posted!