Friday, October 22, 2010

Yeow Li Ancient Waterfall

Ni hao everyone!

Good morning and happy Sunday to you! Here I am in China and It has has now been 7 weeks since I left Australia.

It has been a lovely week here in Jingdezhen, but busy, busy, busy. All of our art brains have been busy in the studio, hands on the porcelain, aprons on, spectacles on and lamps on until late. Everything ON. All systems GO.

There has been lots of extra curricular activities on too- new artists arriving from Sweden and Switzerland, as well as other artists returning back to the USA, UK and Australia. It has been a week of hellos and goodbyes and lots of late nights in celebration of new friendships. Plenty of pee-jiow has been drunk (beer) and gambai's (cheers) all around. Happy sad times.

I have had the realisation (and am baffled) that I have made it across the world to village far far away from everything, and my brain is STILL as full of junk and as busy as ever! It seems that I take this silly manic pace with me, wherever I go. All of this time I thought it was the world that is very busy, but it seems it is ME. I have to learn how to drop this frenetic habit! PRONTO. It is no good for the soul. Wish me luck on slowing my energy down.

So we had some day trips this week around the province, which were the leaving wishes of some of our comrades. We did a day trek in and around Yao Li Waterfall. I have attached some pics of the Chinese wilderness for you to enjoy. It was very caterpillary wilderness walk. I found 3 types of caterpillar that I have never seen before. Massive green ones that were about 15cm long and look like snakes and made my skin crawl and my voice make involuntary noises of disgust. Some smaller green caterpillars with flouro yellow butterfly markings and antennas like butterflies (half caterpillar and half butterfly) which were freaky, and lastly some furry white washing machine lint type of caterpillar. Big and marshmallowy. If I was a bird, Id eat the last guy. All of these complicated masquerades are mechanisms aimed at confusing the bird life hovering above. There were lots of spectacularly large butterflies swooping us too but I was too amazed to snap at the appropriate time.


It is Golden Week here in China, kinda like Chinese Week, the same way we have Australia Day. It is a national holiday for 7 days and every Chinese person is on "tour"... equipped with cameras, balloons tied on arms and street vendor food in hand... which sounds nice except the streets are crowded and the traffic is insane. 10 times as many people staring at me in the street would simply be unbearable. I think Ill hide away in my studio and work like a little beaver for the week. Stay away from the outside complicated world. 

I have been asked by my friend Diana to go into a new studio with a "Great Porcelain Master" in 2 weeks time. The studio is in a fragrant Chinese bonsai garden and the courtyard is surrounded by wooden buildings that open out into the garden. It is a dream come true and I am not quite sure it is really happening... so through this friend I have met the so called "Great Master" (SO HE IS REAL!), and my impressions are that he has a beautiful face and a gentle soul. He is about 70 and does not speak English (which should be interesting). He is only ever referred to as Great Master so I do not know his name yet. I know he is a porcelain painter and is revered across China. So lucky me I have been asked if I would like to have a table in the studio with him. It is such a HUGE HONOUR and I cant believe my luck!! I wonder if this is the Buddhist monk my clairvoyant told me about? He isnt Buddhist, and not a monk, but has the same type of energy about him. I wonder if he has seen my ceramics?? ha ha ha.. he is going to be shocked and horrified at how terrible they are once he does. Oh well I have to be brave and jump into the deep end. This opportunity has come my way for a reason... I havent accepted the offer yet, so hopefully the offer is still on by the time I do.

I may also be moving house from the residency into another friends house in the next 2 weeks for the rest of my time in China. The cold weather is coming here and by the time I leave in December it will be icy.

I have been eating lots of vegan food- green vegies, dumplings, tofu, eggs, friend lotus root, rice, fresh noodles, chestnuts, beans and chilli, fresh fruit, red bean deserts... yum yum! Feeling pretty fresh and fly at the moment. Not wearing makeup and my natural hair colour is coming through. I am gonna stick with it! All this healthy naturalness feels RIGHT.

I am following the path of wabi sabi metta ceramics for my own style.

Have been going for traditional Chinese foot massages at least once a week. Heaven...

Have been taking lots of photos to scratch my artistic itch.

Thats it for today. I hope you are all looking after each other and having a peaceful and happy day. Life is precious.

Do NOT shout at the mountain.

Beautiful waterfalls. it is very auspicious to be able to hear the noise of a waterfall, so people try and live close by to them.

Chris pondering the world.

Morning rain dripping from a yellow bead bush.

Electric green water plants and little fishies living together in harmony.

The bamboo forest.

Mega spiders everywhere.

The snake imitating caterpillars. This one was about 15cm long. SCARY!!

The washing machine lint caterpillar. It was about 12cm long and very big and fluffy.

Artists unite for exploring the bamboo forest together.

A farm house in an ancient village.

Beautiful door.

People collect auspicious rocks to put at their door- like a rock garden. My type of people.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Handcarved stamp shop

This is the famous Baixu, known far and wide for her charisma and charm. Baixu's job is to look after all of the artists at the Pottery Workshop and make sure their stay runs smoothly. Her English is extremely good and she sure is one cheeky little monkey, as you can see here.

So off we went in taxis into the city to buy get some hand carved rubber stamps made. Most of the girls wanted to get makers marks, but their were lots of other designs there too. 

This is the street the stamp maker was on. Its a busy little artery; with pedestrians on their way to work in their socks and sandals and suits on, busy with hungry people on the hunt for their breakfast of steaming bauzu's (buns with fillings), and busy with machines beeping and whirring and crashing- cranes, trucks, tractors, motorbikes, and cars. China is inventing itself by the moment so it is deafeningly loud 23 hrs a day.

This is how business is done in the stamp shop. You sit on a stool that is about 10cm off of the ground with the shop keeper (bizarre) and the lady writes out your receipt after nodding repeatedly that she understood your charades about the details of your stamp.

Red ink made from an ancient chinese recipe and used on all government documentation. Baixu said it is special because you can rub it out easily... ha ha ha.. no wonder it is special government ink. Convenient!

A hand carved rubber stamp- GEE WIZZ. You would need your magnifying glass goggles on to do this job.

The stamp Doctor, in his lab, coat craving our stamps whilst we waited.

The tools of the trade- no bells or whistles here... rubber and a stanley knife.

Books of designs for people to choose from. These deers were particularly lovely.

Our crew checking out the handy work of the stamp man. He just finished making one of the girls a tree.

Now back to the studio to get on with our projects.

Qing Hua/ Blue & White Painting Class

Yesterday we had classes in Qing Hua painting with a master 'blue and white' painter here in Jingdezhen. The teacher, Master Chungun, effortlessly painted us a lotus, and the steps unfold in the images below. With some research with my friend Mr Wikipedia, I found out that Jingdezhen is the home of blue and white painting originating in the 14th century. Er der?!?! How did I not know this? I mean I knew it was an important centre for porcelain here but I didnt know that all French and Dutch blue and white painting originated from here!! This makes me feel humbled- like I am insignificant speck in the huge expanse of time. I cant believe that people were creating these masterpieces so long ago. What a huge honour to be taught something that is centuries old in its technique.

"Blue and white wares" (Chinese青花pinyinqīng-huā; literally "Blue flowers") designate white pottery and porcelain decorated under the glaze with a blue pigment, generally cobalt oxide

14th century development

In the early 14th century mass-production of fine, translucent, blue and white porcelain started at Jingdezhen, called the porcelain capital of China. This development was due to the combination of Islamic trade and Chinese techniques. The new ware was made possible by the export of cobalt from Persia (called Huihui qing, 回回青, "Islamic blue"), combined with the transluscent white quality of Chinese porcelain. Cobalt blue was considered as a precious commodity, with a value about twice that of gold. Motifs were also largely inspired from Islamic decorations. 
Chinese blue and white porcelain was once-fired: after the porcelain body was dried, decorated with refined cobalt-blue pigment mixed with water and applied using a brush, coated with a clear glaze and fired at high temperature. From the 16th century, local sources of colbalt blue started to be developed, although Persian cobalt remained the most expensive. Production of blue and white wares has continued at Jingdezhen to this day. 


Isnt it amazing? The darker shades of blue are made by building up the applications of colour.. like water colour painting in a way.

Scenes of Chinese are the ONLY type of design you can get here. Contemporary art or the modern world has not made it to Jingdezhen yet. Here history and tradition still rule aesthetics.

This is Chungun using the fine tipped brush to map out the lotus design.

My fellow artists looking completely challenged by the prospect of having to do our own. I did a bird on a branch which I am quite happy with but forgot to take a photo.

Chungun added in fat inky lines for the stems then some red for the veins of the lotus. Even though the cobalt underglaze looks grey here, once it is fired it will be a brilliant blue- MING BLUE!

Here Chungun is filling in the big blocks of area by squeezing the "chicken head brush".

The finished product... now off to the kiln to see what it looks like once it is fired.

Another busy day at the Pottery Workshop.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Lustre Laneway- China

So being a jeweller living in a ceramics residency in China there are still lots of things that I am learning about in regards to making ceramic projects. Last week we had overglaze and lustre classes which was an amazing technique to learn however my head almost popped with all of the potential projects that could unfold from just this application.

It is probably the closest I will get to a jewelleryish application.

 The very next day I waltzed in to town to buy myself some lustres so that I can practice! This is the corner of "Lustre Laneway". The street is filthy dirty and there is no pavement or road... just piles of rubbish that you have to climb over. Rosters and dogs scratch throught he debris. I dont understand how such a pretty art medium that makes such wonderful things can come from this laneway that is akin to hell on earth.

These are the palettes of lustres that I could choose from. Of course I bought almost ALL of them. Lets see how well I go getting back into Australia with tiny little bags of coloured powders.

Bottles of gold and platinum lustre. Highly volatile. Completely toxic. Ridiculously expensive. Undeniably sexy. I WANT.

A higgilty pigglty collection of who knows what in the lustre shop.

Tour of the Greenware suburb

This is the greenware shop (in the greenware suburb) that I go to when I need to pick up some porcelain. This is its front door. I thought it was a derelict factory when the translator took us there, and wh en I stepped inside I STILL thought it was a derelict factory, but oh no, its one of the best greenware shops in Jingdezhen.

On the inside you can find rows and rows of handmade porcelain ware, stacked on shelfs.

It was 38 degrees the day I took this photo and the light shard coming through the roof was so hot and crisp, highlighting the teapots so dramatically. Makes them look like suspicious killer teapots.

I like the fact that the brand of this clock is "Money". Time is money... he he... how true!

This is Penny one of our interpreters.

This is the laneway that the greenware shop is on.

A shop that sells larger greenware.

I love taking pictures of doors. This is the door to the clay supplier.

The clay shop. You can see how much less time they spend on merchandising (unlike Urban Cow).

The corner deli where people go to pick up drinks and cigarettes on their work breaks.

Where people live in this town. Mega apartment blocks. China IS the land of SUPERLATIVES.

The main road where we stand to catch taxis from to get back to the Pottery Workshop.