Today was a wonderful adventure. Riding a bike here in the land of no traffic laws is so fun, and yet so scary at the same time. The ride to the decal factory is about 2 miles of pure mayhem. The factory is really cool, they print underglaze and overglaze decals which can be bought for super cheap, or you can get your own images printed really cheaply. The photos are of a room of women who pump out the decals at an awe inspiring pace, there are 5 or 6 women per room and about 5 rooms. The other photo is of overglaze decals drying. I was just walking into all of these rooms and going where ever I wanted. Being a foreigner and not speaking the language is sometimes a blessing the people just have no idea what to do with you..
Today was a wonderfully fun day. Late in the afternoon we escaped the studio as a group and visited a restaurant/ fishing hole. You go to this place and go fishing and then any fish you catch they will cook for you. So imagine 10 American kids with a lot of beer and really weird fishing poles, it was a blast. Bob Anderson (guy with glasses and fish) is the man who started this program. He is a really great person and teacher. He has devoted a lot of time and energy to helping spread his love for ceramics to a lot of people, and started the Jindezehn program as a way to bridge the gap between eastern and western art. Way to go Bob.
After I had my fill of a wonderful dinner I found myself sitting back in my chair in feeling as content as I have in a long time. I realized as I watched all of the people around me laughing and talking, enjoying each others company what it can mean to celebrate even when you are not aware that you are doing so. Today we celebrated life, and did not even mean to. Way to go humans.
Before I came here some people back home told me that if I wanted to get checked to see if I needed glasses that this would be the place to do it, because it is really cheap. I knew that my vision was perfect and that I did not need glasses, but I thought what the heck. I had no idea my eyes where so bad. Short story long, I now have glasses. There is a song in the Disney movie Aladdin that goes a little something like this, "A whole new world...", or maybe this would be more fitting, "I can see clearly now...". The picture is of me and my pal Zhong.
Today we visited a mold makers workshop. I would describe it as ghetto (rickety) professionalism. The mold makers use any and every material to get the job done, and most of them are just everyday things, that we would not usually regard as tools. The tools and techniques are ghetto, but in the end the product is crafted to the highest level of quality.
Across from the JCI (Jingdezehn Ceramic Institute) two, or three blocks of commercial spaces where recently built. The builders of the spaces gave a free years worth of rent to emerging artists from the area. There are probably about 30 galleries all of which are based around ceramic work (why Jingdezen is amazing fact #2). Today was the opening date for all of the galleries, and so as a celebratory kick off each artist set off a bunch of fire crackers, the noise was unbelievable I could feel the vibrations throughout my whole body. In the photos the red paper is from the fireworks, and the ceramic pieces are just a touch of the work that I found wonderful.
Today - Sept 26. We took a little field trip to a town called Tianbo. We visited a pottery where they produce roof tiles and different size jars. The workshop is called Tianbo Pottery, it is more of a historical site now a days and not much of a production site. Because of the advent of materials like plastic, most of the rural potteries are gone. The dragon kiln (picture #1) is huge (180 feet), it takes over 4000 large jars and countless roof tiles to fill it. In its hay day Tianbo Pottery fired this kiln once a month. On the way home we bumped into this brick making factory. All in all the trip was so fun. As a group we are becoming better friends, and having more fun because of it. Leaving the city was also very satisfying, it is hard not to smile a lot with fresh air, good company, and beautiful scenery.
When I am not in the studio I have been trying to get to know the city. I made the greatest purchase of my life since I have been here - A chinese horse. Actually it is a bike. The price was 90 yaun (14 dollars). The bike is so sweet, it has a front basket for carrying things, and a back rack for items, or passengers, a seat with springs, and wheel fenders. The only downside is the brakes do not really work, but you can not have everything.
The city is really cool because it used to be the center of Chinese ceramics, and the pots still have a large influence on what happens here. There are glaze shops, decal shops, clay shops, and tons and tons of shops that sell pottery. While walking the streets you see people moving pottery on these old school carts all of the time
I have been working on my ceramics, language skills, and everything in between. We work in a huge studio with all the materials a person can handle. Just about every other day someone comes in and does a demo for we students. The interesting thing about the work that is done here is the division of labor. I was told that to make one pot in Jingdezehn it takes 72 people. From the person who digs the clay to the person who fires the kiln. The Chinese believe that if you only do one job your whole life ( example: trim pottery ) that you will become really really good at it, whereas if you wanted to make pots as nice as the Chinese you would need to live 72 lives- Interesting. So far we have had a thrower, a trimmer, a slab builder, an underglaze painter, and a brush maker come into the studio and demo, they where all really skilled people.
From Shanghai we took a 16 hour train ride to Jingdezhen - Fun. Leaving the big city and getting to see the Chinese county side was wonderful, plus the train ride was a riot. There were no seats in the sleeper cars and the beds were 3 high on each wall, so we just hung out on our bunks, drank tea, and mingled among ourselves and the other passengers. There where a lot of families with their kids which was cool.
Note one about Chinese culture. I do not know exactly how the 1 child rule works, but it seems to be great for the children. They get a lot of really positive attention and they seem really happy, not much fussing or crying.
We arrived in Jingdezehn ( population 1.4 million )
How cool is Jingdezehn? The lamp posts along the streets are made of porcelain.
Let me start off by saying that I am so thankful to have this amazing opportunity in this wonderful place.
Overview: I am in the Chinese city of Jingdezehn with a group of 9 ceramic students from all over the US and Canada studying at the Jingdezehn Ceramic Institute. We Flew into Shanghai and toured around the city for a few days. The experiences in Shanghai was amazing. We checked out a few museums and I walked the streets as long as my feet would allow each day