Happy Thanksgiving from the land of the Fire Chicken!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family back in the states. My Thanksgiving didn't include actual Turkey this year but I didn't let that hold back my enthusiasm for the culinary king of holidays. Thanksgiving ranks the highest on my list because it encourages you to express your gratitude by partaking in a major feast. This is serious business in the Carter family. My dad's family (which holds our Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday so the men can go hunting on Thursday) is so large that we have to eat in shifts. As one group migrates to the living room to slouch on the couch with their belts loosened, the next group sits down behind them. This happens two, or three times, until everyone has gotten their chance to eat. This ritual extends the meal well past an hour which I find to be fitting for a celebration of gratitude and abundance. In honor of this holiday I thought I would post a few random Chinese Thanksgiving facts.

1. My coworkers explained today that the characters for Turkey are Fire and Chicken. Just hearing this made my mouth start to water. 

Chinese symbol for turkey

2. Turkey isn't eaten regularly in China but Asian fusion has started to creep into North American Thanksgiving meals. For a interesting read click here for Jing Loh's Food Trotter post about his families Thanksgiving. I also thought I would link a recipe to inspire the creative chefs amongst us. Here is a recipe for Chinese Turkey with Eight Treasure Stuffing.

3. The last tidbit is a quick reminder that Thanksgiving is the gateway drug to all things Christmas. Once you realize you've had too much its way too late to stop. To get you in the holiday mood here is a famous Chinese Turkey from Hollywood.

This scene from "A Christmas Story" actually features a nicely roasted Peking Duck that had to be the stand in for a Turkey that was eaten by the neighbors dogs. This completely describes the "same, same, but different" philosophy that must be embraced when ordering in a Chinese restaurant. 


Pots as far as the eye can see-Pt.2

It is very common to see carts of pots being pulled through the streets of Jingdezhen. They might be going from the pottery to the decorators, or from the decorators to the kilns. There are large gas car kilns spread through out the individual factories. (By factories I mean the pottery producing neighborhoods that have grown out of old state run factories. It is common to see families living above their workshops so these factories become small villages within the larger city.) The community kilns are rented by the cubic centimeter to individual artists/shops. After the pots are fired they are unloaded and wrapped in grass bundles to be transported to other parts of the city to sell.

One advantage of large scale commercial production is that glazes have been tested and retested to fit the clay bodies perfectly. You can buy a pristine Celedon that doesn't craze on the local porcelain. Copper reds, rutile blues, and crystalline matts are at your disposal for ridiculously cheap prices. The glazes are sold premixed in liquid form so that all you must do is apply them. If you wanted to be extra lazy you can hire a glaze person to come and glaze them for you. This highly specified division of labor allows international artists to come to Jingdezhen with designs and have them realized in a relatively small amount of time.

Pots as far as the eye can see-Pt.1

I am fascinated by the shear number of pots that are made in Jingdezhen, P.R.C. The unofficial numbers are that 40% of the local economy is ceramic based. (Thats roughly 400,000 people!) Some of these people are potters, some are decorators, some fire kilns, some process clay, and others are in the packing/shipping portion of the economy. The division of labor is very specific with each step of the process being handled by separate groups of workers. (To see an older post of throwers click here. To see decorators click here) While people hand throw a variety of forms most of the pots are slip cast. The images above are of a mold maker and a pair of slip casters. The day we visited pots were lined up down the edge of the train tracks. A train came through which surprisingly didn't cause enough vibrations to knock the pots over.

While the parents work the smaller children attend an open-air Kindergarden located on the same street. I had a great time playing peek-a-boo with the kids. The kids that look blurry in this image where my partners in crime. They would duck under their desks and giggle when I held my camera up. I had to hide behind the edge of the building so they would come out again. The teacher didn't seem to mind so I kept it up for about five minutes before we went on to see the rest of the potteries.


The Patterned Streets of Jingdezhen

On a recent trip to Jingdezhen I found myself photographing mundane objects like walls, gates, and windows. These everyday architectural fixtures are filled with layers of pattern that continually interest me. After hours of carefully painting pots I find it comforting to look at the irregular erosion on a brick wall. It feels refreshing because the surfaces are not intentional. They are biproducts of many variables acting upon each other over a long period of time. I try to replicate this aged surface in the way I dip my pots in thin white slip. When the application is just right you can see a red halo on the edge of handles and slip trailed lines. This type of ghost line is something I'm trying to master in my own work.


City Weekend Article on Cass Hayes

City Weekend just did a spot on one of our students, Cass Hayes. Its a great look into what a community pottery center can provide someone in a big city. Click here for the complete original.

We caught up with Cass Hayes to find out all about the Pottery Workshop. Cass tells us all about her involvement in the classes at the workshop and how it's become her oasis of calm.
How long have you been here?
Two years now, with two more to go. My husband and I married in August ’08 and moved here in September of the same year, so it was an interesting way to begin married life. I’ve been going to pottery for over a year now and have never looked back. I think the workshop saved my sanity, and I’m not kidding.
What got you interested?
I wanted to do something creative but also something very active that would take my mind off my homesickness. Shanghai is bustling and I needed an oasis of calm. I’m finding pottery is mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting so I feel like I’ve really achieved something when I leave each day. My progress is also very clear, from my first pinch pot teapot–(which was pretty rubbish–I made the spout too low so it only holds a thimble full of tea)–to my massive wheel-thrown pasta bowl which I use all the time.


Turkish Ceramics at PWSSH and Jingdezhen Ceramic Fair

The Pottery Workshop will been hosting an exhibition of contemporary Turkish ceramics for the month of November. The thirty four artists were chosen by Zehra Cobanli, the dean of the art faculty at Anadolu University, Iskeshir, Turkey. The work in the exhibition represents a large cross section of styles and techniques including saggar firing, salt firing, intricate slip casting, and traditional wheel throwing. Its great to see how much of this work relates to Turkish ceramic history.

I had the pleasure of hosting Zehra, Lale Demir Oransay, and Onur Mustak Cobanli for a week long trip through Jingdezhen and Shanghai. Our visit to Jingdezhen coincided with the International Ceramics Fair. The exhibits were somewhat lame from an art perspective but it was an interesting cultural event. Their were elaborate opening/closing ceremonies, a ceramic fashion show, and every kind of blue and white porcelain you could imagine. It was presented like a trade show with hundreds of individual booths selling pots. There was one international exhibit that featured work from international artists, including a few sweet pots from American potter Mike Jabbur.

Our tour culminated with the opening of the exhibition in Shanghai. The reception was packed and we had many distinguished guests from the local Turkish community. The Consul General of Turkey, Murat Ulku, came and gave a nice talk about China/Turkey relations. Our director Caroline Cheng also spoke about silk road trade connections and their affect on ceramic design.

I hope to do a series of posts on the areas we toured in the near future. My favorites were the Longua Temple in Shanghai and the Sanbao ceramic village outside of Jingdezhen. I took hundreds of pictures so they will trickle out on the blog as a sort through them.