China Part 3

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These two travelogues provide an excellent description of Jingdezhen, a city of 2 million with 30 thousand potters, where I spent four weeks. I hope you find them interesting.

Travelogue host Zhui gets to know the hearts and hands behind the ceramics industry that has constituted Jingdezhen’s core and conscience for over a thousand years, and keep it alive today.

I visited almost all the places shown and met many of the people interviewed.

These two videos above are very accurate and much better than the videos I made. There is so much history of pottery making in China and in Jingdezhen in particular. Porcelain evolved during the dark ages in Europe and peaked during the Ming dynasty, 1386-1644. Europe was so far behind. In Jingdezhen clay production, blue and white painting, overglaze painting, throwing, all the processes and tools involved in production have been perfected far beyond known in the west today. Traditions persist.

For example, in my brush making class, I was working with a fifth-generation brush maker. Her knowledge of the history of her craft/art was phenomenal, her skills amazing. It was an encounter with a virtuoso. She could make dozens of different types of brushes for different pottery applications. She was very clear about what brush to use when. It all made sense to her, and to the people who walked into her shop too. They would test and scrutinize each brush until they found the right one for them. It was like watching Itzhak Perlman purchasing a new violin. I felt so utterly clueless.

I know nothing about brushes for painting watercolors or oils, but I think there are plenty of good brushes available in the USA for those styles. There are even good brush choices for painting houses, trim, walls and floors. But there are no good brushes in the USA for pottery. There was one good brushmaker who died five years ago. He went by the name Brush Man. But his brushes were 100 times more expensive than those I saw in China and 100 times inferior. Brush Man died five years ago, and now there is no one. So sad.

One of the reasons the craftspeople in Jingdezhen are so skillful is specialization. Unlike myself, who has a studio and makes pots from start to finish, to the extent that I even formulate my own glazes and built my own kiln and used to mix my own clay, in Jingdezhen each step of the production process is done by a specialist. More on that topic later.

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