INKSTON Ceramics Studio

Today we are experimenting some new designs and glazes. It is winter but sunny and warm. Here are some photos which we took today.🙂

You can also visit our ceramics shop to see our finished pieces.

Young Artists’ Ceramic Dream of Jingdezhen 景德镇

(INKSTON is helping to distribute some artworks from these young ceramic artists. They are extremely affordable handmade designs and are available on both inkston and Amazon Handmade project.  see Inkston Ceramics Shop).
Most of the pieces can be made with customisations, for example a special message etched into the clay before firing, if you want a customisation, please contact us and we will reply you within 12 hours.)
 
On train back to Shanghai from Jingdezhen. Almost one year ago, I met a girl named Jaijia at a Japanese art glass work exhibition in Shanghai. She was wearing a simple light pink cotton dress, short-haired, wearing a couple of silver bracelets which were obviously handcrafted with very delicate skills. Not knowing why, I was attracted by her and started talking with her immediately. She told me that she quit her job as a designer at a a very fast-developing Chinese IT firm and she spent half a year studying ceramic arts at Jingdezhen. 
 
Ever since then, we became good friends even if we only met caught up three times in last 12 months. Jiajia mentioned many times about her art pursuit and life in Jingdezheng. I suppose it is the passion about arts which shone from her eyes that has intrigued my curiosity to know more about Jingdezheng. This October, after my trip to Bali and Singapore, Jiajia sent me one message telling me that she is in Jingdezheng organising her own studio. I decided to visit this city.
 
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Jingdezhen has been extremely famous for ceramic production for hundreds years. It is neither the first place to produce ceramic nor the first place to produce ceramic for royals. Nevertheless, ever since Qing dynasty, Jingdezhen almost became the symbol of Best ceramic craftsmanship in the world. I once visited great museums in Europe, surprisingly, you always feel very strong Chinese touch in European arts. For example, the Versailles has a Chinese room, so do Spanish and English royal palaces. I guess it might be very trendy in first class society to own a Chinese room. Therefore, you also see Chinese elements in Austria, Belgium, and then Bavaria forests.
 
 
In the end I spent three days in Jingdezheng but I have a very strong feeling that I shall come back many times and spend more days here. This is simply because I saw dreams of young artists, I  feel the passion for arts and great ceramic craftsmanship at the place. 
 
If I was asked to make a comparison between Jingdezhen and any other city in the world, I would choose Berlin without even half second hesitation. The once Mayor of Berlin had a very famous comment that went something like “ Berlin is poor but it is Berlin and I love it!” It is a simple comment but it carries so much emotion and love. I once lived in Berlin and I fell in love of this city’s spirit. In Berlin, as I have always been telling my friends, you can find the highest concentration of artists. There are so many artist communities and all of them are open to each other. Great tolerance and open minded would be the keyword I want most to tag Berlin city with. Now, I found another Berlin in the east. That is Jingdezhen.
 

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Ankel is a young artist born in 1990 and he has been in this town for two or three years. I don’t remember clearly  his story before he came to Jingdezhen. His story is sort of like this, after graduating from China Academy of Art in Hangzhou he worked very short time and then started travelling to other Tibet and Nepal. He met a girl in Tibet and that girl is from Jingdezhen. Also because he has been looking for a place where he can calm down to concentrate solely on art creation, he came to Jingdezhen. And the girl whom he met in his trip in Tibet, became his girlfriend. This young couple rented an empty flat and made it their first ceramic studio in Jingdezhen. Ankel spent two years studying and making ceramic and his girlfriend takes the best works to ceramic market to sell.
 
 
There are two major ceramic markets in Jingdezhen. One is at the ancient state-owned ceramic factory site and the other one is at another once state-owned factory.the first market is called Le Tian, means happy day. The other one is called Tao Xi Chuan. It sounds like  out Ian and river of ceramics. These two markets are for young artist to sell their work. Most of things are handmade unique piece. On average one piece takes one week time to complete. If the weather is. To good, it would be two or three weeks time. 
 
In these markets, it is very common to see young couples like Ankel and his girlfriend. Living poorly but happily. The good thing is that living cost is very low in Jingdezheng so young artist can make a living relatively easily. However, still many young artist need financial support from their parents. For young people whose parents are not able to support them, their life can be tough. Being an artist is luxury in many ways. You have to have a lot of time, energy and resources to create art.
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Paintings in Bali, Indonesia

Museum Puri Lukisan, Ubud, Indonesia

organized by inkston

 

 

Making Chinese Inksticks

Since around 256BC, Chinese have started making inksticks. It needs a lot of hard work to make only one inkstick — click to read more information about inksticks.

Old Hu Kai Wen Inksticks Shop 

Photos source: Tencent Photos, 2016.
Photos were taken at the Old Hu Kai Wen Ink Factory, She County, An Hui Province, China.

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The process of making traditional Chinese inkstick is highly confidential even if the recipe has been used for hundred years. Normally, it takes 11 complicated steps to make one inkstick. This inkstick craftsman is mixing up one of the materials. — in Anhui.

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Mr. Fang Wenhun is making inkstick molding. He started making inkstick in 1976 and has never left this workshop ever since. — in Anhui.

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Mr. Huang Zhijun is checking the finished inksticks. He has been making inksticks for over 40 years. — in Anhui.

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60 years old Mr. Wang Shengli has been working at this inkstick factory for 36 years. He has been doing the same work in all these years without a break. ¨Everyday, I do the same work and I will retire next year.¨ said Mr. Wang.


The factory owner Mr. Zhou said, ¨Mr. Wang Shengli is the second generation inkstick craftsman and he is in his 60s. Mr. Zhu Gang´s father was also an inkstick craftsman who worked for this factory. However, none of their children would like to do the same work any more. For young people, there are so many other ways to make money without working as hard as an inkstick craftsman.¨
— in Anhui.

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It is not difficult to sell inksticks. The most difficult problem for this traditional craftsmanship is that no one want to learn this skill. Most of the current inkstick craftsmen in China have spent their whole life to only make inkstick. For future, no one knows what might happen. Let´s hope this valuable craftsmanship will not disappear.

In this photo, the 54 years old craftsman, Mr. Zhu Gang, is taking out some finished inksticks to dry. His father was once a skilled inkstick craftsman, but none of his children is interested in making inkstick any more.ink-maker-17

Inksticks are placed in shade to dry.

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A worker is improving the paintings on the inkstick.

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Once the inkstick is finished, it needs to be decorated with small paintings or calligraphy. Usually, this work is done by women.

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When the inkstick is 30% dry, workers need to improve the details of the inkstick.

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The time each inkstick needs to become dry varies according to the shape and weight of the inkstick. Normally, an inkstick of 45 grams needs 6 months time to dry, and 80 grams 8 months. Also, different shapes of inksticks have to be placed in different ways.

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The inksticks are dried in the natural environment. The humidity, temperature, etc have to be strictly controlled. Every several days, workers need to flip the inksticks to avoid molds.

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The youngest inkstick craftsman is over 50 years old already.

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The best Chinese inksticks are still 100% handmade with the most traditional, also confidential, recipes. Modern machine still cannot make inksticks which are as good as handmade ones.

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Hammer.

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There are 7 to 8 workers in this workshop. Their job is to use hammer to reshape the half-finished inksticks. Firstly, workers use hammer to make the half-finished inkstick even softer. Secondly, workers have to squeeze these soft inksticks into a molding tool to get the inkstick a nice shape.

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Steaming inksticks. At this stage, the inksticks smell quite nice already.

(I really do not know how the inksticks are made although I visited inkstick factories before. Such kind of information is very confidential and, therefore, mysterious too. )

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Half-finished inksticks.

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This workshop is for finished inksticks. Most of the workers in this workshop are women. The finished inksticks are sent to this workshop to be decorated.

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Hands of inkstick craftsman. If observing closely, you will find almost all the inkstick craftsmen´s hands are black. It is difficult to wash this black colour off. There are very few inkstick craftsmen in China at the moment. Take the Old Hu Kai Wen factory as an example. There are around 100 workers in this factory and most of them are over 50 years old already. A skilled inkstick craftsman can make 5,000 to 6,000 RMB per month. Although this is a quite attractive salary in An Hui, it seems this is not attractive enough for young people. To be a skilled inkstick maker, you will not only need several years intensive training but also need to endure very bad work environment. Your hands will be black for almost all your life, the smell is strong, and you have to be strong enough to carry heavy raw materials.

 

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Old Hu Kai Wen Ink Factory is the most famous Time Honoured Brand in China. It was established in 1782 and its workshops are still in use. The worker just walked out of the workshop where the raw materials are processed.

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Inkstick craftsman have to stay at the dark dirty smelly workshop for the whole day.

Ethinic Minority Group Craftsmanship: Making Silver Jewelries

Silver wares evolved over thousands of years amongst the Qiang, Miao and Tibetan minority peoples in southwest China – see our Stories. The designs are inspired by the natural environment, mountains, rivers, trees and wildlife. For information about Qiang Ethnic Minority Group, please read Qiang, romantic cloud-dwelling artists.

We have also collected some silver pieces made with the same traditional craftsmanship. For more information, please click: Inkston Silver.

Photos source: 《中国贵州民族民间美术精粹*银饰》,2014年5月

Wang Zi Rang Chinese Painting Collection: Joy of Su Ink

Xuan Paper suitable for this type of Chinese paintings are available at INKSTON Xuan Paper Shop. We also have one article on the Xuan Paper Guide, which shows how to choose proper paper for specific purposes.

Brushes suitable for this type of Chinese paintings are available at INKSTON Brush Shop. We also have one article on the Brush Guide, which shows how to choose proper brush for specific purposes.

Inksticks suitable are Pine Soot black inkstick and natural mineral colours. Both of these types are available at INKSTON Inksticks.

 

Wang Zi Rang Chinese Painting Collection

 

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Wang Hui:Chinese Abstract Painting

Xuan Paper suitable for this type of Chinese paintings are available at INKSTON Xuan Paper Shop. We also have one article on the Xuan Paper Guide, which shows how to choose proper paper for specific purposes.

Brushes suitable for this type of Chinese paintings are available at INKSTON Brush Shop. We also have one article on the Brush Guide, which shows how to choose proper brush for specific purposes.

Inksticks suitable are Pine Soot black inkstick and natural mineral colours. Both of these types are available at INKSTON Inksticks.

Please visit inkston article on How to enjoy a Chinese abstract painting? 

羌绣围裙的故事

 

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This typical Qiang Embroidery Piece is Available at Qiang Embroidery Shop 

For more Qiang Ethnic Group information please read Qiang, romantic cloud-dwelling artists.

传说三国的时候,羌族与蜀国接壤,两国间战事不断。羌族妇女骁勇善战,蜀国在与其对抗中吃尽了苦头,蜀国丞相诸葛亮派出大将姜维到羌人聚居的汶山迎战,但却做了常败将军。诸葛亮很是烦恼,于是想出了个法子来治这些能征善战的羌族妇女。诸葛亮找来符咒做成挑花围裙,送给羌女。天下女儿皆爱美,况且这美丽的挑花围裙还被诸葛亮下了符咒,这神秘的符咒能够让人沉迷于挑花围裙的美而不自拔。

   Qiang Emboidery     羌女看到如此美丽的稀罕之物甚是喜爱,于是这些从汉人那里来的稀罕物被羌女争相效仿流行一时。从此,骁勇善战的羌女们每天做的最多的事不是练兵打仗,却是争先学习挑花刺绣。羌蜀之间自此停战多年,当地百姓也自此生活在太平盛世之中,被诸葛亮送去的挑花围裙经过千百年来羌族人的发展,便成了今天大家看到的刺绣。神奇的是,至今为止,几乎羌族的男女都仍在使用羌族的挑花围裙。当地人说不会绣花的女儿嫁不出去,羌人家家会绣花,每户人家自己的家用也都是自己绣来的。

        虽然现代文化早已渗透到羌文化的方方面面,但是在汶川大山中生活的羌人似乎总是能够非常和谐地将自己的传统文化和现代时尚结合起来。走在汶川县城的大街小巷,最常见的便是完全身着传统羌族服饰的羌人,身着现代流行服饰但是腰间别上羌族挑花围裙的羌人。这样的搭配倒真的是让人眼前为之一亮,偶尔还会错觉自己是不是到了时装季的意大利米兰。皮肤黝黑、身形勇猛结识的羌人穿上休闲西服,腰间加一条手绣挑花围裙,夹杂这身上的银配饰,这真是非常魅力非凡!

Wenchuan Qiang Old Lady
Wenchuan Qiang Old Lady