29 April – 30 April 2017
Yichang to Jiangdezhen
Today was a big drive of around 700kms along the amazing highways and tunnel networks which slice through the landscape of mountain tops, valleys and plateaus.
It is the beginning of the May Day long weekend and the bonus is less traffic and free tolls. The scenery is changing as is the weather which is getting warm again as we head to the East. Noticed larger areas of farming of various vegetables and bananas. We are looking forward to Jiangdezhen because one of our team has arranged for us to meet up with some friends who are Australian potters who work here for 6 weeks creating beautiful pottery for their gallery in Melbourne.
Jiangdezhen is also known as the porcelain capital of China, famous for its white clay and cobalt blue glazes. Porcelain has been produced for nearly 1700 years and the famous Ming, Qing and Yuan ceramics were produced here. It continues to be a centre for ceramics and many artists train here at the Ceramics Institute.
Lee and Alexandra took us to an antique market and there could buy many broken shards of pottery, old Mao posters, ceramic busts and statues of Mao, jewellery, plates, paper books, rocks, dragon statutes etc. Most were “aged’’ to achieve a weathered appearance but if you knew what to look for you could find your self a genuine antique. Across the road there were many small stalls, galleries and shops at the Creatives Market of aspiring ceramic artists selling their wares. The pieces were all of an exceptional standard and beautiful. Delicate, tiny teapots, jewellery, plates, bowls, tables and drum stools – fabulous! Unfortunately we don’t have much room in the car. Suppose we could have it shipped back…
Lee and Alexandra took us through the back lanes to where the ceramics were being made, glazed and fired. Walking along the lanes you could just wander in and watch how the statues, plates and bowls were being moulded or thrown. Most are made from giant moulds, released from them and left to dry in the sun outside each studio or small factory. (Now I know where the crockery for Chinese restaurants is made.) We visited some huge kilns which fired the large statutes of revered Buddhist saints, horses, roosters, Buddhas and tiger statues and other figures; along with the kiln where Alexandra uses to fire her work.
It was fascinating to see Lee and Alexandra’s studio space as well and some of her work in progress. One couldn’t help but be inspired when living and working in this part of Jiangdezhen, surrounded by budding contemporary artists and evidence of the traditional ceramics every where you look. There are even large cylindrical ceramic blue and white totems surrounding the lamp-posts.
After our visit to the Antique, Creative Markets, laneways and studios we continued our journey to Hongcun – a UNESCO World Heritage site.