As I sit here looking at the images I’ve drawn in the last few days, I’m taken back to my first drawing class in college where I remember thinking that I would never be good at drawing, and that I would never care that I was no good at it either. Then, that was completely true. Eventually though, I realized that making a mark is making a mark, whether it’s with a pencil, pen, sharpie, brush, leaf, stick, finger or wooden clay rib. The congruency between marks between tools used in 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional marking is wonderful! I’ve just never been very good at utilizing that concept.
In fact, sketching is one of my least favorite past times. My excuse was always, “I like making pots,” or, “this is why I work in clay.” That all really started changing when I started to sketch pieces that I really wanted to make, but with the same line that I had always looked for on them. I would always just sketch on the wheel, make a ton, and make em’ different. I throw as many as it takes until I find what I’m looking for, then I find how to do it again. However, the fact that I can sketch 200 of these in a matter of minutes, and then have them all in one place to review as many times as I like is invaluable.
I feel like many people who work in 3D and sketch work at trying to make what they’ve drawn into more than 2 dimensions until they get to the point in their work that they know what they’re going to make and are really just sketching notes. I work backwards of that. I make a piece or a line on a piece that I think is great, and then I struggle to move the marks I make with my clay tools from the pot to the paper. It took me letting go of my perfection tendencies, and just letting the mark my body wants to make come out. It’s my hands that would make the mark on the pot, and my mind that knew how to make that mark, and the muscle memory in my body that felt it, so why could I not just let it out on paper? Because I didn’t know to.
Drawing skills were not what I expected to find in China. New throwing techniques? Yes. Glaze that fit my pots perfectly? Absolutely. The ability to make lines on paper that inform my work and help me design better? Never saw it coming.
This is Sanbao. Sanbao is a little pottery studio outside of Jingdezhen. It’s very very elaborate. They have a wonderful restaurant, nice working spaces, very cool scenery, and tons of cool kiln spot. Our friend Ding showed us around the place a bit.
It’s a clay studio, so of course there were lots of cool pieces around. There was also one of the coolest bars I’ve ever seen in my life. They make their own baijou and plum wine. What were they lacking though? A pizza oven. I wonder if I know anyone whose ever built one of those. So a few friends and I took a field trip out here and built them one. Chris (studio tech at the JCI) had spoken to the owner of Sanbao and the owner had a base built for this oven.
The base is built from brick that was made just down the road. The metal frame is an old kiln door. They had erected this base in about 10 min. from what I hear, right after Chris and the manager spoke.
We put this arch up in about 10 minutes flat as well. Cut bamboo strips, held up like a dream. We wedged them between the two sets of skewbacks (brick that is cut to fit the end of a sprung arch) and basically planned to burn it out later.
So we got some clay from under the wood kiln up top and mixed it with a ton of sand. Watered it down and that was our make shift mortar. It was basically an iron rich low fire clay with enough sand to keep it from cracking. After it set it would be perfectly fine, but just to ensure that, Sanbao is going to concrete over the whole thing afterwards. Yes, the faces do help the oven to be more structurally secure. Remember that!
So we’ve got this thing all built up, and get started on the door arch. They get to mixing concrete, and it starts raining. Good thing were in China and the clay stands up to EVERYTHING!!!
All in all though, it came together. This is Chris Meyeres putting the final touches on the chimney that we made from some of the old pots that were out at Sanbao. It was a good day trip. 3 or 4 hours to put an oven together. All these bricks that we built the oven from are made right down the road, so they are pretty much just low fired clay as well. Still haven’t been out to bbq in it, but soon? Man I hope so. . .
This is our friend in the studio who came out to do a Qing Hua (blue and white painting on porcelain) demonstrations for us. It was a great demo, and afterwards we got to paint pieces with her cobalt mix and have her give us a little bit of hands on help. It was great getting to see the way she utilized her brush to get the lines that she wanted.
We did get to go to the Jingdezhen Annual Porcelain Conference or something like that. There’s a lot of these things that happen here. But it was basically NCECA China!!! There were so many cool pieces from Qing Hua to industrial stuff to. . . well, you’ll see. More pictures, no one actually reads what I type anyway.
There were so many cool pieces and designs. It’s been a whole different realm from what I’ve seen here in Jingdezhen so far. It was actually about the art and the design rather than just making a living. Granted, I struggle between those two concepts often, it was good to see this side of the town. These were the ones that really really grabbed me. And then the ducks because Miranda (wonderful friend in San Francisco) loves ducks.
And then. . . there was an entire floor with nothing but industrial ceramic supplies. For those of you who don’t know, clay and ceramic materials make a ton of the things we use everyday. Your catalytic converter? You know, the thing that translates some of the toxins from your emissions system to help the environment? Made of clay. Ceramic ball bearings? More efficient in slide than metal ball bearings. Crazy huh? Well, I was in industrial ceramics heaven. It was amazing all the things you could see and play with. I didn’t want to leave. My friends made me. I’m glad they were around to push me out of there.
More cool pieces and sculptures. These are up here for my friend Trevor Dunn. If you haven’t seen his work and are interested in clay stuffs, you should. www.trevordunn.com The frying pan is cool because it’s flameware. Flameware is a strong clay that MUST be fired to 0.0 porosity. Many clays have a porosity somewhere between 8% and 2% when they are high fired, but flameware has to be fired to an extremely exact temperature, have a glaze that fits perfectly, and absorb absolutely no water. The reason it has to fit these specifications is because it will be in contact with direct flame or stove burner. Regular clays can not take this, and will crack. Flameware if fired right can be cooked on and utilized until it is broken. Flameware that does not meet those specifications, though, is prone to explode very violently, just as pyrex would if used improperly.
All in all it’s been a good few weeks of working. There have been the bumps, but I have another month and a half here in China to work and learn and have some fun. I’m starting to think about my work next semester and what I need to do to graduate. Someone told me to make pots in the now, but I think I should be keeping the future of my work in mind right now.