Friday, 15 November 2013

Notes from Jingdezhen

It is two weeks now since coming back to London. But it feels like a year. My one month and a half stay in Jingdezhen is far away in the past. London does that. I went to Jingdezhen for a ceramics residency. The place was the Wow Tao. My expectations were to produce sculptural work. I wanted to experiment with shapes and new ideas, those things I did not have time to do in London.
Also I wanted to get an understanding and practice of the ceramic processes at use in Jingdezhen, learn of its history, and the current state of affairs for ceramists . I managed to do that. But I just barely scratched the surface. After all they have been producing ceramics for almost 2000 years, and it is a big city/area, with many ceramists and workshops. Something I understood, is that concerning techniques and materials, they have had time and people to try it all, almost all. They have the time to choose what it works for them and they master it, through copying and repetition. Nonetheless as I notice with the painters of xinliao ,(drawing the line) and fenshui, (splashing), at the Wow Tao, the copies are not exact. They have the same flow the same subjects the same materials, the same tools, but it did not seem to me they were replicating exactly the same drawing in each pot, there were some improvisational licenses. The Wao Tao is part of Jingdezhen university. It functions as a business and is a ceramic center dedicated to promote Jingdezhen ceramics. It consists of workshops where visitors can have a go at some ceramic techniques, throwing, hand-building and painting of wares, specially on glaze. There was during my time there a regular group of under glaze painters, some of them learning, some of them young professionals. They were producing blue and white porcelain. Which has been produced for hundreds of years.
The Wow Tao also had a gallery/shop where visitors can view and buy work produced by Jingdezhen artists and workshops. The gallery /shop was in the first floor. This year I was lucky enough to be living on top of the Wow Tao. I had a room in the third floor. The third floor was still a work in progress refurbishment site, and I was the only one staying there at night. It was a bit spooky. I did not manage to descend to the workshop in the second floor and work at night. I can also blame the mosquitoes. So I worked in ceramics during the day, next to the painters. I spent some time with the painters, painting on the ware, drawing, trees, rocks,mountains. Not as much as I would have liked. I wanted to finish some of my own work to leave for the Wao Tao.
It was a pity that I did not manage to learn Chinese, and be able to communicate more. For me it was very interesting to see how the new painters get trained. How they learn the right consistency of the pigments, how to handle the brushes, the movements , how to paint with steady hands, first the line, then following dots, painting flowers, trees, rocks, landscapes or scenes, by copying and repetition. I thought of my father describing how he was taught to write, with ink. It was very interesting to be next to the painters.
I appreciated how they worked as a team, how the work was divided, the specialization. The painters at the Wow Tao, each one was doing one or two phases of the drawing. One person painting the first outlines of the rocks and tree trunks, the skeleton of the scene. Then another adding detail, the windows, leaves, differentiating planes, filling with detail the outlines, then more detail on top of the detail, little plants, shadows.
Finally after the drawing was finished, for some wares there was someone brushing on blue pigment quite diluted, giving the drawings their atmosphere and depth.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

On the road again.

Today I am leaving London and flying to Jingdezhen China. This will be my last post here for a while as I can not access my Google blog in China, at least last year. I am quite excited and a bit scared as usual. This year I have more expectations about the things I want to work there. Specially I am looking forward to use their porcelain again. And I will draw and draw and use those drawings on the clay. So lets go :)

Monday, 26 August 2013

Steep Slope

Sometimes things do not go as we want them to go.
Ceramics is a medium in which many things can go wrong. I have spent the last two months trying to get two orders finished. I failed to realize that the kiln was over firing, then I kept throwing too thin specially the plates, and third I failed to recognize the reason why I was not getting a particular green with one of my glazes. The kilns I used, two, were over firing more than 30C. I have learned from this to always use cones,in order to be sure of what is happening during the firing, and keep a record for the firings. I learned a lot about my glazes their range and color/texture possibilities. And my throwing, it was intensive for the last two months and very focused, on the shapes I needed to get. I would have enjoyed this process more if it were not so stressful and exhausting. I was working at Cheeky Tiki, ceramics production, bar ware, at the same time. There were limitations on time and the availability of the kilns, I share my studio with more than fifteen people. We share the 4 kilns, one too small and another very big, which leaves two, both over firing.
The mugs due to their compact shape survived always, and the glazes became glossier but apart from some blisters, not happening much in the mugs, they looked even more beautiful and intense in a glossy way. All but the green of the teapot, which is a case on its own. It has so many variations in color and texture, glossy going to soft matte to even dry texture, color from black/green to dark blue/green to bluish/grey to metallic blue. All that depending on thickness of glaze, texture and surface on where the glaze was applied, inside or outside, method of application and finally the temperature of the firing and the position in the kiln.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Cockington Ceramics Festival, Torbay, South Devon

Lovely area, I was really looking forward to this event. It was not just for the ceramic event I was taking part in. The area is of astonishing natural beauty, it is by the coast, I was going to the sea. The image is from the day of my arrival, moody weather but mostly shiny. I had a good walk, first to Babacombe beach, whith its colourful stones/pebbles, greens, pinks and reds, the green blue of the sea, the blue of the sky, the brightness of the sun, the yellows and blues of the flowers. All the saturated colors and the smell of the sea. I follow the coastal path on a circular walk returned to the hostel. I had to do the most of that day. I was tired as I have been carrying most of the day my suitcase and backpack, full of pots, from London to the hostel in Torquay, by train. The weather report was saying that this would be the warmer, sunnier day of the week. So I stayed outdoors till late. The following day Thursday was going to be the day for setting up the stands at the Ceramic Festival. Thursday was going to be windy and with plenty of rain. Very early in the morning I walk towards the caves. There are caves in Torbay, there,were found some of the oldest remains of humans in UK. What to say of the caves, full of fantasies in color and shape. After this my mission was to set up the stand for my pots. Luckily the marquees were super lux and super sturdy. It was a truly windy day. I do not really enjoy the momment of unpacking and unwrapping the pots, so many things, it is not like moving house but... is that kind of thing. When everything is on the table it gets a bit more enjoyable. It is like making an installation, but not so, a window display with many articles and few props. That is my case for the limitations on the weight I can carry myself. But finally it was all ready for Saturday Saturday started for me with a relaxing walk towards Cockington a bit less than an hour. I was going to demonstrate at 10.15 am, and it is always a bit stressing. The theme I choose for this demonstration was that of hand building with dry clay modules, from simple objects to complex ones. The bonds would be done with paper clay. There were no many people at first, but soon they were joined to my satisfaction by a generous group of school children, I felt more at ease. Then the day went by, the sales were good, the visitors, the fellow potters, and the very friendly and helpful people running the event. At the end of the day Ian Gregory was demonstrating as well. Sunday was another good day for slaes. Sandy Brown came along the pavillion as she was later on given a talk at Cockington. There was a full program of workshops, talk and demonstrations running parallel to the Fair. All in all it was a great experience, that the bad weather could not spoil. I am looking forward to come back.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

New piece out of the kiln

I still need to be looking at it for a while, but I think this one is finished and completed