So how did you get the China-Funk? “Well, I pet a kitty and rubbed him all over me, but in my defense. . . he was a really cute kitty.”

29 09 2010

That is right.  We found a kitten that was absolutely not afraid of people.  He was the only one.  He was outside the meat-on-a-stick shop sometime around midnight and Erica decided he needed some loving.  (She has no recollection of rubbing this fuzzy critter covered in China Funk all over her [China Funk-the Funk that you find all over the streets and dirty things in China.])  She named him Funk de Funk.  You can tell that most of the other animals are afraid of getting eaten or that people aren’t very nice to them.  There’s a few here and there that are really nice, but most of them are really skittish.  There’s a studio dog named Saggar, and he’s pretty awesome and playful, but he’s kind of racist against chinese people.  Apparently some meat vendors or something used to kick him.  Therefore, he doesn’t like wheels or most chinese people.

My view of the mountains out my window

So this is the view from outside my window.  You can see how we dry our laundry here, our the back of our windows.  I usually hang them on anything I can find (chairs, desks, drawers, cabinets, etc.) but this time I had some hangers.  Gets them dry and right for wearing.  I will never take a washer and dryer for granted again.  So I threw a few shirts and pairs of pants in the backpack and got on the bus.  It’s pretty nice here in the mornings, although the sun wakes me up very very early.  This is what I wake up to though.  Not bad I say.

Vase Heaven

A pot taller than Marshall. Marshall is not short either.

We went to this museum of porcelain in Jingdazheng that was also an ancient kiln site.  Very beautiful.  It was very overwhelming though.  This is Marshall in front of a 10 foot tall porcelain pot.  When we first came to this kiln site, there was a lady at the gift shop playing american christmas carols on her pan flute.  We all sang along, they all laughed.

Selling you things EVERYWHERE

Porcelain, Porcelain EVERYWHERE!!!

The nice thing about his kiln site was that everywhere you went something was happening.  Wonderful pieces surrounded you and eagers workers sat and made clay art in their spaces.  All the tasks were broken down and happening right in front of you.  Carvers carved, throwers threw, trimmers trimmed.  There were greenware (not fired yet) pieces everywhere you turned.  The downside to this ancient kiln site was that there were lots of people there.  Anywhere there are lots of people, there are lots of people to sell to.  You could not turn anywhere without tons of pieces being there for sale.  It was nice to see at first, but it started to get overwhelming.  You could tell that quite a bit was tailored to selling pots, rather than educating people on the ceramic arts.

Very happy to be carving

Replacing the brick walkways

The kiln site was very very nice though.  Walking around was refreshing and everyone was nice.  There was no funk to the air, and the landscape was all tended. Gardens in the water

Pagoda in the museum surrounded by water

Ming Dynasty houses within the museum

Throughout the museum, however, there were all kinds of little treats.  Such as these random bunches of garden that were growing out of some of the lakes, or this pagoda that had ceramic bells and other instruments in it.  We also found this group of houses that people lived in somewhere in the back.  These ARE houses from the Ming Dynasty in China.

Ridiculously detailed porcelain boat. And May. . . who thinks she's sneaky.

Found this little treat in the Jingdezheng Museum of Porcelain.  Blow this image up and take a peak at all that detail!!!  Also, this is May.

Michi is a teapot, short and sto. . . er. . . tall and slender.

After all the museums in Jingdezheng and a good night’s rest, we started our voyage for Yixing.  For those that don’t know, let me catch you up.  I’m in China, and I’m staying in Jingdazheng at the Jingdazheng Ceramic Institute.  The JCI is located in the South Eastern provinces of China and is blistering hot, then freezing cold.  So I threw a few shirts and pairs of pants in the backpack and got on the bus.  8 hours and many subtitled James Bond films later we got off the bus in Yixing which has been a much different experience than the rest of China.  Yixing is the cleanest city I have been in here in China thus far.  I’m not going to say that all of China is dirty, but much of it is.  The culture is different, and you just have to make sure that your careful.  The food isn’t unsafe or bad to eat, you watch the people cook it.  You just have to be careful that you wash your hands and pay attention to where you walk and what you touch.  Anywho, this has been one of the cleanest and wealthiest cities I have seen so far in China.  Yixing is known as the pottery capitol of the world, and is very very famous for their teapots.

Ancient Grinder

Much of the group

Li Chao took us to a potters workshop where we got to see the environment he worked in.  He kept many historic pieces around such as this ancient grinder, and his working spaces were just very peaceful and inspiring.  We walked around, hung out, talked about the things on the property.  Li Chao is the man in the blue jacket.  He has been extremely helpful to everyone.  He does most of our arranging, translating, meal ordering, directing, barter teaching, etc. etc.  Very very excellent so far.

Vegetable Garden

Walls of pot shards

One of my favorite things to experience and see while I’m here in China is this sense that all the ceramicists have of community.  I have not come across a kiln that has not had a vegetable garden near it somewhere.  I have not come across a kiln that was not a community of potters.  I have not come across a kiln yet that was not utilizing what came out of it.  These are shards of broken pots, but they aren’t wasted.  It’s been good for me to see and hopefully I’ll take something more than I expect from it.

Water Machinery

May and Marshall by the boat

As we continued to move around this very large space known as a studio, we found some areas that were great for meditating or just relaxing and collecting your thoughts.  Morgan is near this old water machinery on a dock, and May and Marshall are enjoying a moment to just be still.

Where all home depot's flower pots come from.

After leaving the studio space, we traveled to a village that was a small teapot village.  We wandered to the back and found rows upon rows of other houses. . .   and then there was a little factory.  We poked our heads in and found tons and tons and tons of mold made and mass produced flower pots.  The kiln system was way cool.  The had them on railroad like tracks that could slide in the middle of the room so that once they unloaded the kiln, they could just slide another track right on up to fire.

Teapot

Teapot

The one that had me drooling.

The last part of our trip here in Yixing has been spent looking at teapots, learning how teapots are made here, learning about the traditional tools of making teapots here, learning about the clays, and most importantly. . .    learning how to barter with locals so that we can buy their teapots 🙂

We have all bought many teapots and seen many made.  I have seen more teapots this trip than I could literally shake a stick at, literally.  For the last 2 days we have been on our own to explore shop after shop after shop of slip cast, molded, and hand built teapots.

Our very nice friend.

To wrap up the trip (we leave tomorrow) I’ll tell you about our friend.  Two of us stopped in to see him work.  Only his assistant was working, so he poured us some tea.  Landon came in and he invited him to sit as well.  The gentleman spoke a little english, we spoke a little chinese. . .   it all worked out.  Next thing we knew there were 15 people in the room and we had talked him into giving us a demonstration of his work.  He is pouring out of his teapot here, and after pouring us all round after round of delicious tea, he spent 40 minutes showing us how he does what he does.  Later we left and ran into him, where he invited us out to lunch.  Had we not just eaten, we would have accepted.

Here in Yixing, I learned and saw a lot.  I’ve seen many of Yixing styles, etc. but it was more the sense of tradition and why the potters still do what they do here that was important to me.  Many do it for money, and because they can make good money HERE making teapots.  Many are masters though, and have teapots in their family for hundreds of years.  As well as learning a lot about Yixing, I have learned quite a bit about my work and why I do what I do.  I love my forms more now than I did when I came.  I also very much value the craftsmanship that I and others do after seeing so many wonderful teapots, and so many crappy ones that were casted just to make a cheap yuan.

It’s been great trip with many great experiences, however, I am ready to get back in the studio!

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