Sunday, November 28, 2010

Antique Town Dongfu 東埠

In fall 2010, I went to China for a visit again. This was the 3rd time I visited China, and I have became quite familiar with cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Both my fiance and I couldn't really stand the noise, crowded space, and pollution in big cities for very long; therefore, we decided well in advance that we would head to the country side for an escape.

It was in the small antique town called Dongfu 東埠 in Jiangxi 江西 we met one of the most memorable people in our trip.

Dongfu used to be one of the busiest cities in the Jingdezhen 景德鎮 area. It was the main port city where porcelains made in Jingdezhen began their journeys to the rest of the world. Dongfu is next to Kaolin 高嶺, the area famed for its natural material used in making porcelain clay. With modernization of transportation, today's Dongfu has long losted its shine and has been forgotten by the rest of the world.

Granny Sun lives in Dongfu 75% of her life so far. She is an transplant from Shanghai in the 1950's. When we arrived Dongfu it was obvious to the villagers that we came from a place nowhere near Dongfu. Granny was very excited when she saw us. An outsider herself, she felt akin to us who are truly outsiders. She volunteered herself as a tour guide for the day and took us around town. She spoke to me in Shanghainese which I can only comprehend partially. I understood her desire of speaking to me in her native togue because she is lonely most time. Her children are all married and moved out, and she is the only person who stayed in her century old house next to the 昌江.

I told Granny I was interested in picking up porcelain shards in this area if I could, and it was one of my goals in this trip. After Granny heard my wish, she gestured us to follow her to the kitchen. In her antique cupboard, she showed us two tiny tea cups with marks of age. She dug them out from her garden where she grows produce for herself. I admired the cups for a moment and gave them back to Granny. To my surprise, Granny refused to take them back and insisted to give them away to us. I tried my best to either give the cups back or pay for the cups. Again Granny refused to take my money or the cups. In the end, I was able to give Granny a zitan 紫檀 purple sandle wood rosary to her as a momento. I still think about Granny from time and time and wonder if she is doing fine. I wonder if I would see her again. If you ever get a chance visiting Dongfu, please say 'hi' to her for me!

P.S I will put the photo fo the two cups up asap!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Berkeley Potters' Studio Teapot Show in September

The pottery studio where I am a member of is hosting its annual teapot show in September again. I am not a teapot thrower myself but made a couple of unsuccessful ones in past. The reason I say unsuccessful is because I couldn't get the mouth of the teapot right yet; therefore, when pouring teas, water drips from the side of teapot unpleasantly. Anyhow, I do admire many teapot makers/artists in my studio. Some of the teapots remind me the tea party in Alice Wonderland. What do you think?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

13-year Old

13-year Old

As a complement to 16-year Old I purchased in Beijing, I made a 13-year old brother to keep her company. It is through sculpture I can see my style of creativity running freely. I have to admit that I am not a very potter on wheel, and after many years, I still have many technical faults when throwing on wheels. However, with sculpture, I can execute images in my head with precision. 13-year old is a good example of such execution. I dedicated this sculpture to my significant other who encouraged me to make the purchase of 16-year Old when we were in Beijing. :)

13-year Old

6 Salt & Pepper Chess Pieces

With the unexpected success of selling the "My Sweet Home" salt & pepper shaker in 2009, I was encouraged to make more salt & pepper shakers, mostly for my own amusement. These 6-piece salt & pepper chess pieces are thrown on wheel with hand sculptured heads.

6-piece Chess Salt & Pepper Shaker

I like them quite a bit; therefore, I'm not sure if I am ready to put them up for sale yet. However, even if I do, I plan to put a pretty expensive price tag on it to deter people buying them unless they really like the set.

Material: Bi-Mix
Temperture: Cone 10
Glaze: Rose (?)

Monday, September 07, 2009

16-Year Old - 鄭玉奎 中國 (798)

Before I visited Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics,
I heard about the famous and over-priced art gallery zone 798 and was eager to visit it. My intention was for inspiration and not for collecting or buying because I actually know a trick or two of making my own craft/art creations.

However, when browsing through various galleries and studios, I fell in love with this beautiful clay statue called 16-year Old. The gallery prohibited photos but I managed to take a shot with the help of my boyfriend (That's why the picture is a bit blurry). Looking at her, I can tell the techniques applied in making the 16-year Old are slabs, coils, slips, and no glaze. It ought to be very easy for copying, I thought. However, 10 minutes after stepping out of the gallery, I decided I should ask for her price because I am not sure if I can achieve the same level of perfection as her creator's anytime soon. The result of a price check:
very expensive by American standard. The gallery explained to me that The sixteen year old is the creation of a master Chinese ceramicist, 鄭玉奎, based on the image of his own daughter, and she is a limited edition work because nobody knows if Mr. 鄭玉奎 would want to make the image of his daughter again.

Debating if I should spend the same amount of money enough to buy a round trip ticket to China, I listed all the things I like about her:
1 . Her graceful posture
2. Her lovely facial expression of a Chinese girl.
3. Her detailed Chinese top and
4. Her classic Chinese hair style.

After examining her closely, I made up my mind that she is coming home with me to San Francisco. The gallery workers noticed my interests in ceramics and took extra care of wrapping her up with layers of layers of padding, foams, and bubble wraps. They were emotional to see her go as I was emotional to bring her home.

The sixteen-year old now sits proudly in the entrance of my apartment. I called her My Sixteen Year-Old. The gallery did not forget to give me her birth certificate in case if she becomes a million-dollar doll one day. Fingers crossed. After the economic crisis in US this past summer, whenever I walk pass my 16-year Old girl, I always thought to myself how gladly I spent the money on her, rather than on some tanked mutual fund.

More Salt & Pepper Shakers

A couple of years ago I made a series of salt & pepper shakers for my own amusement. I even sold a pair at a Christmas holiday sale for $15.00. Recently, I have been making salt & pepper shakers again because I want to used up a bag of black clay that I am not very fond of (because the fiber is short, very hard to throw for my skill level). I used pinch pot method when making my earlier salt & pepper shakers; however, I found that throwing the basic cone shape on potter's wheel helps to speed up the process by a lot.

Here are some end products:

Title: My Sweet Homes (Sold!)
Material: Cone 10 High Fire Black Clay + Sodate-60 Slips
Glaze: None
Size: 1.75" x 1.5"

In December 2009, I sold this lovely salt & pepper shaker pair on I have to say it was hard to let them go. I took a couple of photos before taking the package to the post office.

My Home Salt & Pepper Shaker Packaged

My Home Salt & Pepper Shaker

Title: Abstract Animal Shakers
Material: Cone 10 High Fire Black Clay
Glaze: Cone 10 Peach / Orange Shino
Size: 1.75" x 1.25"


Monday, July 27, 2009

Shadow Puppets

Today, I would like to talk about something that has nothing to do with pottery. Today's topic is about shadow puppets and its importance to Balinese art.

Antique shadow puppets in Neka Musem

Early July, I went to Bali for a friend's wedding and was on the hunt for an Indonesian shadow puppet. I always have a thing for shadow puppets and already own a pair of Chinese shadow puppets from Beijing. Looking for a Balinese puppet was simply adding one more to my collection and with the possibility of playing it with my other two.

However, it was after visiting the well-respected Neka Museum in Ubud that made me realize how important shadow puppets are to both traditional and
contemporary Balinese art
. Balinese shadow puppets played a far more important role in the development of Balinese paintings, and it is the source of inspiration for many painters. In the first phase of Balinese traditional painting, one can often see depiction of figures with features almost indentical to shadow puppets. I suspect this style of drawings emerged from story-telling or religous text. Nevertheless, Neo-Balinese paintings still retain and extend the same style of drawings. Photos above and below demonstrate the similarity in facial features of a shadow puppet and a contemporary Balinese painting of two figures. Now, I look at my Indonesian puppet with a total different view. I'm sure I will still play it with my other puppets, but I will always think about the meaning of this puppet (though I doubted it is a real antique) and what it brings to Balinese art. I'm glad I went to Neka Musem, and I'm glad I bought the shadow puppet.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Does this bottle look zen?

This bottle is one of my latest creation. I am pleased with how the dark stain turned out after the firing. I couldn't quite visualize the look when I glazed it and had tried a couple of technics before settling down with the final glaze. The glaze I used are shino orange for the body, and tamaku for the black stain. I initially used black underglaze for the stain but was not too sure about how it would look if covered by a white glaze (window clear glaze ran out that day). In the end, I switched to tamaku just to be safe.  The creation of the flower decoration was actually an unintentional design.  While trimming the pot, it moved and left a scar made by the trimming tool; in order to salvage the work, I extended the scar into a frame and made the design as it is today.  It turns out nicely.  I think.

Mr. Tofu in Flower Soup Bowl

I bought a Nikon D60 recently, so I have no excuse of not posting some of my latest work online. Last year I made a series of rice bowl with bright flowers painted with Amaco cone 10 underglaze. The end product exceeded our expectation; bright colors such red, orange, and yellow generally don't come out at high temperature firing; however, Amaco has produced a number of colorful underglazes that can withstand cone 10. I was lucky of getting these underglaze via a promotional offer. I paid $6 shipping and handling for 6 2oz. jars of bright red, orange, and yellow. I just checked the price online last week, one 2 oz. jar of bright red cone10 underglaze is about $6.00.

tofu man in soup bowl2007 Flower Bowl

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pottery Wheel Maintenance

It came to my attention that many people probably land on this page looking for a REAL pottery wheel maintenance guide. I myself from time to time run into wheel problem too. There are cases where the wheel pedal is too sensitive; the speed is not consistence; the wheel is making loud noise at high speed; and at one time, the electric cord seemed to leak power, and I got a mild electric shock while turning the wheel off (luckily, I didn't die from that...) I found some simple guidance regarding taking care of your pottery wheel from Here it is:

Step 1:
Clean up well, after every session, as clay gets everywhere. Clay is easiest to clean up while still wet, so try to make wheel cleaning a part of your normal maintenance routine. Pay special attention to the small space between your wheel mount and the spinning tray.

Step 2:
Wipe excess clay from the pedal of your pottery wheel when you notice that it is building up. A dirty pedal can be difficult to control and can lead to the destruction of your projects.

Step 3:
Listen to the motor of your pottery wheel; it should be almost silent. If you begin to hear humming noises, it's time for a good cleaning and oiling. Clay dust can build up inside the motor after a long period of use. Your local pottery supply shop should be able to tune up and maintain your motor for a reasonable price.

Step 4:
Cover your pottery wheel with a sheet or drop cloth, if you won't be using it for awhile. During prolonged periods of inactivity, you should plug in the wheel and work the pedal a bit, every month or so, to keep the motor maintained.

Step 5:
Unplug your pottery wheel, or turn it off if you have an on/off switch, when it is not being used.