Late May was hotter in Jingdezhen than we expected, and it wasn’t even noon yet. We amble up the back stairs of what appears to be an old factory, now partitioned into smaller studios. Unsure of whether she said 2nd floor or 3rd, we’re just happy to be in some shade.
It turned out she said 3rd. The east-facing wall of windows didn’t help with the day’s heat as it let in all the sunshine it could fit, but an overwhelming symphony of odd, captivating shapes and textures pushes any discomfort to the background. The two artists credited with making these both studied fine arts in university, using ceramics as their chosen medium. Just to the right of the entrance, three test pieces of fruit-like objects at stages of ripening and decay support this.
Both hail from Chaoshan area and wear it on their sleeves, speaking with a noticeable accent and packing a small teapot full of Dancong.
Her work is what originally drew us in and led to a visit – a set of tall, hand-formed teacups with experimental white and black glazes on the exterior. These cups, as well as the rest of her work, is quite modern and abstract – a contrast to her warm and down to earth demeanor. While it’s common for many artists and ceramicists in Jingdezhen to build off of glazes and styles that prove to be popular, her approach feels much more individualistic. As we casually set aside a group of cups to take home, she concernedly requests that we don’t ask for too many pieces. She notes that she can only produce a limited number of pieces at a time and is not able to meet any large or even medium scale requirements.
Complementary in both personality and vision, his work follows a lifecycle-centric theme – for now. Tables and shelves feature tea jars, bowls and cups imitating the form and feeling of non-specific/imagined organic matter. These, along with works in progress, broken and otherwise “defected” pieces around the room, reveal his attempts to capture not just the look and feel of life at various stages, but also its beauty.
As we congregate a small group of tea jars that resemble something between a fruit and a bulb, we embark on the impossible task of selecting only several from the group. Pointing to two tea jars on the table, he mentions the experience of having a piece of fruit with a stem that slowly starts to sprout if left long enough. He then eagerly flips the lid over to reveal this jar’s sprouting stem, as if delighting in this little touch for the first time himself.