Author archive for Derek

  • Jingdezhen

    The carrier

    A specialized cart, banche (板车), with its load of porcelain clay.  The sack tied to the cart’s undercarriage typically contains moving blankets for transporting fragile ware, plastic tarps to protect against rain, and straps for tying down loads.

    Porcelain production in Jingdezhen would immediately halt without the tireless efforts of the carriers who transport materials and ceramics through every stage of the production process.

  • Jingdezhen

    Drying

    Sculptures being dried in the Jingdezhen Sculpture Factory.  In the top photograph, plaster molds used to build the sculptures can be seen lying on the ground.  A single sculpture may require the use of dozens of plaster molds.  The sculpture in the bottom right image has already been sprayed with glaze and is ready for firing.

  • Jingdezhen

    The Kiln Board

    The side of a public kiln in the Sculpture Factory.

    For quick drying, unfired porcelain clay sculptures are placed on top of the kiln while plaster molds are placed on the bottom.

    On the side of the kiln are written various people’s mobile numbers, many of which are advertisements for services.  For instance, a craftsperson named 占 can help you spray glaze (吹釉, literally meaning “blow glaze“).

  • Jingdezhen

    The Brush Maker

    Porcelain making in Jingdezhen is a highly-specialized craft that requires its own tools.  Here, a brush maker goes door-to-door selling brushes in a variety of shapes and sizes, each for a specific function, from painting blue and white qinghua to washing unfired forms before glazing.

  • Jingdezhen

    The bicycle carrier

    One of the many forms of shipment throughout the city of Jingdezhen.  Here, a bicycle carrier is transporting fired vases to an on-glaze enamel painter.

  • Jingdezhen

    Mao

    Mao Zedong enjoying a smoke while queuing in line to be fired at the Sculpture Factory.

    In the foreground are temperature “witness” cones in clay support pads which are placed in the kiln and bend upon reaching a certain temperature.  In the West, ceramicists often fire a kiln using multiple sets of cones of different temperatures as guides (for instance a low temperature cone bending signals the start of reduction atmosphere, while a high temperature cone indicates the approach to target temperature).  While in Jingdezhen, kilns are often fired using only a single high-temperature cone.  The kiln masters (who fire kilns almost every day of their professional lives), rely instead upon sight (the color of the flames), sound, and experience.

  • Jingdezhen

    Waiting

  • Jingdezhen

    The Stamp Maker

    These stamps are used for on-glaze enamel decorations on porcelain sculptures.

  • Jingdezhen

    Veiled

  • Jingdezhen

    Antique Market

    Shards for sale at the Monday morning antique market in Jingdezhen.  These shards are typical of the market, representing a variety of authentic and imitation wares from a variety of time periods and kilns.

  • Jingdezhen

    Funeral Band

    It can be surprising to wake up to the tune of “When the Saints go Marching In” in a small town in China.  Bands such as this one play to the accompaniment of firecrackers during travelling wakes for the dead.

  • Jingdezhen

    Roof Tiles

    Traditional wood-fired roof tiles being made by compressing slabs around a conical mold.  After joins are compressed and the rough edges sliced off, the cylinder is removed and stacked with others to dry.  The fired roof tiles below display the variegated colors typical of wood firing.

  • Jingdezhen

    Dragon Kiln

    The Tian Bao dragon kiln in the countryside outside Jingdezhen.  During firing, wood is inserted into the side stoke ports.  The stoneware clay used at Tian Bao comes directly from the surrounding fields.

  • Jingdezhen

    Loyalty

    The remains of revolutionary ceramics in an abandoned factory in Jingdezhen.  The hand once belonged to Mao Zedong, while the Chinese character “忠” means loyalty.

  • Jingdezhen

    On-glaze enamels

    Examples of some of the low-temperature on-glaze enamels available in Jingdezhen.  To generalize, each of the main types of on-glaze—gucai (or wucai, famille verte), fencai (famille rose), and xincai (“new” or “Western” colors)—are representative of different historical periods in Chinese ceramics (respectively: late Ming/transitional, Qing, and Republican).  And although each of these types might traditionally only use a limited color palette (for instance wucai means “five colors” but initially included only red, green and yellow enamels), there exist a tremendous amount of variation in color throughout history and in the shops of Jingdezhen.

     

  • Jingdezhen

    Jingdezhen motorcycle

    Another example of Jingdezhen ingenuity.  A motorized bicycle made by a local craftsman.  Two separate chains attached to the rear wheel allow for pedaling or motoring.