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.

Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute

This is the studio that we get to work in. It looks great but lacks some of the comforts that we are used to. Right now we sweat buckets, soon enough we will be freezing. At night the light is poor and the mosquitoes come out in hordes. By Chinese standards the studio is unbelievably nice. I have done some exploring with my friend Bobby Free to some back alley dark and dirty studios. We set the camera up on timer and the flash caught all of the silica in the air. I don’t think they know what silica is so it does not affect them. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. We had demonstrators come and show us how they work. The clay wedger is an apprentice to the thrower who has to throw 2,000 to 4,000 pounds of clay per day depending on the size of the forms. That means that this kid moves 6 to 12 thousand pounds of clay per day. First to the wedging bench, then he wedges it and gives it to the thrower, then he moves the thrown pots outside. It is no wonder that he has zero body fat. Also, the wedger has secretarial duties because the thrower is to busy to stop throwing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Shanghai is a beautiful modern city. The pollution is horrible! It gave me a sore throat for the first few days.

I tried to order a corndog and I ended up with squid on a stick. Guess I need to start studying chinese.

A view of the Shanghai Museum at Sunrise. The museum is modeled after the ancient bronze basket form. The collection of Chinese ceramics is mind boggling and would require at least two days to do it justice. Jet-lag is great--I was waking up at 5:00am and hitting the streets by 5:30. Many people exercise and do tai-chi on the sidewalks and in the little parks downtown.

I met this gentleman and other kite-flyers early one morning. He had an amazing stunt kite and he taught me how to fly it. The people in China are really nice!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Made it to China!

Fireworks to kick off the semester with a bang!

Trevor teaching the Chinese how to throw their porcelain.