Today was the first rainy day that we have had in a while. I exercised in the rain this morning and it was really fun. Most of the day was spent in the studio, but in the afternoon I took my daily adventuresome bike ride. I went in search of the factory that makes the fake antiques ( I was inspired after the antique market). All that I found was another huge vase factory. Holy cow, I wonder who is growing such huge flowers.
There are these motor cycle taxis drivers here. They park along the street, smoke cigarettes, wear sunglasses, and look intimidating. These guys drive their motor cycles in a not so safe fashion, all while they wear the funniest little plastic helmets. I am sure the helmets would do nothing to protect them if they were to crash, but fall off. With this in mind I decided it would be funny to make some of these helmets out of porcelain, and decorate them in a not-so-bad-ass way. I think the porcelain would probably be just as protective anyway. Hopefully I will be able to get some of these motor cycle men to wear my helmets, at least long enough for a photo. Our cooks found my stash of helmets and had some fun with them.
I had to wake up this morning at 5:30 am for art history class. Today's class was held "out in the real world" - The Antiques Market. Every Monday morning is the antique flea market here in Jingdezehn. Farmers come and sell shards of the old school Chinese dynastic pots that they have dug up, others try to pass off fake antiques, and then there are book sellers, jade dealers and everyone in between ( V-magna would love this place). Here in the city there are actually factories that make pots made to look like antiques. As you walk through the vendors you can tell who has the fake pots because theirs are still whole. The flea market is really cool, there is a lot of energy here and tons of cool trinkets to look at. Still no Chairman Mao jerseys though - bummer.
Today's adventure involved a long bike ride to a neighboring village of Sanbao. Zhong (Chinese friend), Kurt (my roommate from Minnesota), Charles (professor from Norway), and myself took a 20 mile round trip bike ride to the Sanbao village and beyond. In Sanbao there are these massive pounding machines that are used to crush up stones, especially kaolin stone, which allows for the making of porcelain.
We rode through Sanbao and followed the old country road until we came to a most beautiful valley, where we frolicked and were awed by the scenery, and vast space. On the ride home I got a flat tire and rode the last 4 miles on the rim, it made a lot of noise. I was laughing the whole time because people were giving me the funniest looks.
Today I took a trip to the big vase factory. The road to the factory follows the river, and this little farm looked so organized and beautiful, that I had a strong desire to document it. The vase factories are amazing and a bit absurd. The vases are made in sections. Each section is a probably 100 pounds of thrown clay, it takes a team of throwers to center and throw the pieces. The pots are then assembled, trimmed, and then hand painted. The thing that amazes me about these places is that the workers are doing just that, working, they have no outstanding desire (from what I can see) to be "creative", or create "art", it seems more like work - 9 to 5.
I use the quotations because I feel like these statements could lead to some interesting discussions.
I am starting to dig into my work here, and loving every minute of it. The cup is soda fired, and I like to drink my tea out of it. When I first got here I threw a lot of cups to get my feet wet, settle in, and try out the beautiful porcelain that is available, this little guy is one of the fruits of my labor.
In the evening a group of us went to a place called the "Pottery Workshop," which is a studio here in Jingdezehn that welcomes international artists to experience the city. Every Friday there is a lecture given by either invited artists, or residents of the "Workshop." Tonight's lecture was given by a Israeli ceramicist who lives in Australia. Her work is interesting because it deals with the rift that exists between the Israelis and Palestinians. Her views where very open and hopeful, which I found hopeful.
After the lectures there is a little party, and most of the foreigners hang out to drink the free beer (hmm?), and bs. There is a lot of art speak, and it is one of the few times during the week where I get to interact with english speakers who I do not see everyday.
"I'm going up to the country...." Today I traveled to the remote village of Yao li with my friend Dan, and his father, David, who is visiting for a few weeks. The village is an example of what the rural, communal lifestyle of China was like over the past few centuries. One cool thing about the village is that the people living in it do not pretend that they are living in the past like most of the reenactment sites in the US that I have visited do. Instead they live in old buildings, have outdoor gardens, and make things in the old school ways, but they also wear modern clothes, and use gas stoves, and hang up posters of Chairman Mao.
We also traveled up into the mountains and hiked around for a better part of the afternoon, and took in some beautiful sites provided by "The Nature," it was nice to get fresh air, good company, and a bit of exercise.
There were tons of really funny signs with terrible english translations, but there were also a few cool ones.