At the end of April I was invited by Ryan Mitchell to participate in a ground breaking ceremony in Jingdezhen, China scheduled for May 24th, 2014. Ryan has been asked to oversee the design of a new international ceramics studio in Jingdezhen. The project has a much larger scope, rebuilding a part of the city of Jingdezhen that had severe flooding a while back. Steps have been taken to prevent future flooding and the Greenland Group (one of China’s largest real estate / development companies) is the planning the new development.
I was asked to come along as a representative member of the IAC (International Academy of Ceramics) and Past President of both NCECA and the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts. Needless to say the time frame was challenging, with the necessity for a Chinese visa and arranging airline tickets and hotel accommodation.
We departed Montana on May 22nd and arrived into Shanghai late on May 23rd. We flew to Jingdezhen early on May 24th, and were met at the airport by our Greenland hosts and student interpreters.
Once we had our ‘feet on the ground’ got out into town to visit some familiar spots (this marked my 3rd visit to Jingdezhen). We found Pottery Workshop Deputy Director and friend Eric Kao at the coffee shop, along with Canadian friends and colleagues Trudy Golley from Red Deer, Alberta and Grace Nickel from my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba.You just never know who you will bump into when traveling internationally!!
The next morning, May 25th the ‘ground breaking’ ceremony was complete with drummers, speeches, attending dignitaries and confetti shooting cannons! After the ceremony the guests were invited to have lunch and attend a ‘conversation’ about the new development concept at the old Jingdezhen pottery kiln historic site.
The historic site is truly inspiring with ceramic artists making and decorating traditional Jingdezhen blue and white wares.
I had an opportunity to spend the following morning searching for specific over glaze decals at the plethora of decal shops in Jindezhen. That was followed with a wonderful lunch at the famous Mao’s restaurant with my student interpreter Lin and our Greenland employee host.
In my eyes, a great deal has changed in China since my last visit six years ago in 2008. More cars and infrastructure, more Western style hotels and restaurants, more modern conveniences and everyone seemed wired to a cell phone and computer.
I was pleased to see porcelain pots and sculpture still being wheeled through the Jingdezhen streets, but I saw far fewer carts being transported in this tried and true historic fashion.
We ended the short (less than) 3 day visit to Jingdezhen with a stop at some ceramic shops. We found some recently produced replica ‘Chinese Chicken Cups’ that we bought for a few dollars each. The original recently sold for a record $36 Million USD at auction! Crazy!
We left Jingdezhen feeling like this portion of the ‘Quick China trip’ was a success.
Stay tuned for my next post on part 2 of our ‘Quick China trip’ with a great visit to Suzhou and a great exhibition of contemporary Norwegian and Chinese ceramics.