Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pulled Noodles

This is a short video of Mr. Noodle stretching the dough to make La Mian (pulled noodles). I am hoping to find the time to have him teach me how to do this. His noodles are by far the best that I have had anywhere in China.

A trip to the decal factory

This is a common transport for ceramics in Jingdezhen. These pots have not been fired and are on their way to a kiln. I have seen this hundreds of times and it still blows me away.

At the decal factory you can have decals printed while you wait. Just outside the factory is an outdoor pool tent to help pass the time.

Around the corner is a street that has four types of businesses which include pottery tools, restaurants, salons (aka brothels), welding shops and kiln shelf stores. It is pretty strange mix of businesses. I inquired about prices at the kiln shelf store and found out that the shelves are really cheap! Most sizes and shapes are between $10.00 and $12.00 each. These shelves are pretty amazing as well, we have fired them in the wood kiln to cone 12 plus and have had no warping at all. I would love to put a bunch into a shipping container and send them home for everyone.

After waiting for the decals we thought about lunch at this restaurant and decided that maybe we should head back to our own neighborhood instead.

This is one of our local favorites. Mr. Noodle as he is known by all of us gringos. Here he is shaving noodles off of a chunk of dough and they fly straight into the boiling broth. After they are cooked in the broth they are stir fried to make the dish called daoxiao mian.
Hao Chi! (Good Eats!)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mr. Jin's big water jars

This is Mr. Jin doing his thing. He is a master of the coil and paddle technique. He has been making large scale pots most of his life. He learned his trade from his father in the family business.

Making large coils by rolling the clay back and forth between his hands.

Look at the height that he gets from a single coil addition.

Paddling the base after it has set up a bit. The rest of the pot will eventually be paddled into a beautiful bulbous form. This was part of a three day workshop that he taught. I have been trying to learn this technique but I seem to be hopeless for the near future.

Mr. Jin and I as he tries to give me some tips for my five futile attempts.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

My China digs

Looking West out of my dorm room window on the fifth floor.

The Southwest view.

Looking towards the North. The local recycling center in the foreground and all of the ceramic factory stacks off in the distance.

Tony Clennell, my roommate inspiring me to keep blogging. He is struggling to make me a better communicator and I am trying to make him more tech savvy. We both have our work cut out for us.

My iron horse.
I fell in love with these antique bikes when I got here and immediately went out looking for one. While trying to buy mine the bike shop owners were having me lift up the bike and then lift up other cheaper bikes to show me the quality. There point was lost in the total lack of translation. Later I realized that they were trying to impress me with how heavy my bike was not how light it was. My bike ended up costing me 100 Yuan which is equal to about $13 US. The lunch room lady laughed at me and told me that I got ripped off. I should have paid only 50-60 Yuan. A friend of mine bought this style of bike brand new (much lighter) and he has had nothing but trouble with it. I ride my bike like it is a mountain bike. I wheelie my it, jump it off of curbs, and barrel down mountain dirt roads. The locals think that I am a total freak. To them bikes are for transportation. The only thing that has broken on my bike is the chain. Unfortunately, I was six miles up the canyon by myself just before dusk. No headlamp, extra clothes, or tools. Some things never seem to change.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Zip-line at the Great Wall

Looking down from the top of the zip-line.

This type of activity seems even sketchier in China.

Getting ready.

Looking back up from the lake at the bottom.

This is what we saw zipping down the line.
Donna and I were both attached to to one little carabiner.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Hiking the Great Wall.

We headed 100 kilometers North of Beijing to hike along the great wall. We hiked from Jinshanling to Simatai which is a distance of 10 kilometers. I was very excited to see the Great Wall but did not realize just how great it would be. God I love puns. The weather was fantastic and the scenery was a lot like the Southwest. Some of the wall had been repaired while other parts remained in their natural state of decay. This project was an incredible feat. Being there really gave you a sense of the enormity of scale. Once we reached Simatai we had a chance to take a zip-line down to where the buses pick you up to go back to Beijing. The zip-line was a blast!

Getting ready to head up one of the steeper sections.

Donna almost at the top of that section.

Looking out from inside one of the watchtowers.

It went on and on for more than 3,000 miles--nearly impossible for me to imagine.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A real getaway!

Donna and I met in Beijing for a rendezvous and chance to checkout some of China’s historical attractions. We wanted to meet somewhere warmer and closer to the half way point for both of us but my visa would not allow me to return to China after leaving. Hawaii was sounding like a great option so that we could finally go on our honeymoon. Beijing is not what we had in mind so we are still waiting for our honeymoon. Twenty hours of travel and 6,000 miles for Donna. Twenty-three and a half hours and 1600 kilometers of train travel for me. The travel was long and tiring but the reward was definitely worth it. Seeing the love of my life after seven weeks apart was amazing. Here are some photos from our week together.

Donna in front of the gates to the Forbidden City.

The Temple of Heaven.

The mote of the Forbidden City.

Having fun at the Bell Tower.

Monument to the People’s Heroes at Tiananmen Square.

Monday, October 15, 2007

My weekend get-a-way!

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling like I needed to get away from our group for a little while. So I took a trip to "Club Dread." I guess you can say that I am finally a seasoned traveler as I have fallen ill to some parasite or bacteria. What ever it was, it had me dancing the cha-cha to the bathroom more often than I care to remember. I am now back to the land of the living. It felt like I was beaten by a hammer mill. I had not been taking care of myself prior to the incident and had also let my "food guard" down. So it hit me pretty hard. I have never had any problems with the cha-chas in my previous travels but now I am a little more cautious. Anyway, I thought I'd share a picture of our not so lovely bathroom where I spent most of my weekend. One great thing about this bathroom is that you can pee in the shower guilt free, it is one in the same. The bucket in the corner is for flushing when they decide to shut off our water for no apparent reason. Hopefully, I won't have to go back to "Club Dread" anytime soon!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Gaolin--The original source of kaolin

We went on a field trip to Gaolin. Gaolin is the original source of kaolin for the world of ceramics. The word kaolin is derived from the name of this location where the kaolin clay was mined and processed to make the first high fired porcelain.

At Gaolin we were able to go into the #1 mine. I went all the way to the end of the cavern and looked back without my headlamp to see what it must have been like if your candle went out while you were hauling kaolin out of here. You can see other people coming up behind me with their headlamps. The passages were very small and hard to navigate. Very much like spelunking.

When I turned my camera’s flash back on I caught Bobby trying to pull an Ozzy Ozborne on this innocent bat that was trying to get some rest.

This is Bob Anderson, the director of the West Virginia University China program. He is not guilty! He was actually just riding in the police escort car that was arranged for us to visit this area. Apparently, there is a missile facility near by that required a police escort for our chartered bus.

More photographs from Yaoli

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Not my kiln shed!

Though I wish it was. The kiln shed for the snake kiln is a thing of beauty in its own right. My kiln shed is strictly functional. It is built from culled dimensional lumber and cheap corrugated sheet metal. I can’t imagine what it would cost in the states to have a shed built like this. The peeled timbers and rough-cut tile supports are great. Many builders in the states would not know how to deal with this stuff. The tiles are especially beautiful. The last image is of a worker making tiles to fill the back half of the snake kiln. His make shift wheel and bamboo tile jig are really cool. The front half of the kiln is for pots.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

This kiln is a real workhorse!

We took a field trip to Yaoli. It was a long bumpy scenic road to get there. Most of the road was under construction supported by China’s recent infrastructure campaign. At Yaoli we had the opportunity to see a fantastic “Snake” kiln. This design is a historic classic dating back to the earliest stoneware production periods. By my estimates, I figure that it has 4,000 cubic feet of stacking space. Occasionally I think my anagama is too big at a little over 100 cubic feet. This kiln should be called a monster kiln measuring about 200 feet long! Looking inside one of the side stokes you can see Danny Crump enjoying his exploration of the kiln. I’m not sure that my photos can capture how awesome this kiln is. They will be firing again within the month. Some of us are trying to plan a trip back out there to see/help with the firing. I would love to feel the power of this kiln at the firebox.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Taking a walk in Jingdezhen

You never know what you might find while walking around Jingdezhen. We set off to look around for used antique bicycles. We ended up in some crazy back-alley workshops. I will never complain about my studios again. These people work in any setting. One of the studios was right next door to a concrete building that had six giant hogs in it. I guess after a while you might not want to vomit from the smell. The pile of glass in the first photo intrigued us to stop and look. In the same yard we noticed some vases sitting out in the sun. Out came a nice Chinese man that invited us to come in and see their wares. We tried to ask what the glass chunks were for but communication was not happening. I am guessing that they were going to grind it up for glaze making. The painting on these pots is phenomenal. Zoom in and look at the brushwork in the third picture (and check out his nails!) He was not even cross-eyed. I can’t imagine doing that for 10-12 hours a day. Two doors down we found a shop making giant planters and tabletops. Everything is once fired. The top of the kiln is loaded with tabletops and sheets of decal for decoration. These must be the cheapos because they also hand paint some of them. This was day number three in Jingdezhen and I was thoroughly convinced we were in the porcelain capital of the world.