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China 2024 Day 7 & 8 : Two Days in Jingdezhen


Welcome to the seventh in our series of blogs documenting our tea & teaware sourcing trip to China & South Korea.  At Comins we are very fortunate to have friends all over the tea world.  When we visit them on our trips we promise to share what we learn & in our recent survey you shared that our blog is one of the best ways to do that.  So we hope you enjoy the journey!

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In our last blog we were spending time the magical landscape of the Zheng Yan area of Wuyi Shan. It was now time to head somewhere else quite magical - & one of my favourite places in China - the porcelain capital ; Jingdezhen.
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To understand why Jingdezhen is often referred to as the 'porcelain capital of China' you need to understand its location.  It is close to the best-quality deposits of petuntse (porcelain stone) in all of China, as well as being surrounding by pine forests to feed the kilns. Better still, it also has a river system flowing north and south, which has provided easy trade for its fragile wares.

 

 

Day 1 here was spent meeting up with two of my old friends.  First a trip to LiaoYi’s store who specialises in items made from  Ramie, including tea cloths - Ramie is a perennial Asian flowering root herb of the nettle family which is seeded in March. Most ramie plants grow along the Yangtze River earning it the name “China Grass”. More absorbent than cotton, breathable and resistant to bacteria and mildew - Ramie is one of the strongest natural fibres even when wet.  We are delighted to have a few new pieces from his studio coming online soon.

  

   

Next we went to see YunBai Studio run by Yangyang Li.   Pottery clay, or porcelain clay, or both in different proportions are used alongside beautiful illustrations.  This work & the friends behind it are beautifully unique - here is an extract from our book tales of the tea trade in their own words 

‘Porcelain clay expresses freshness and brightness, while pottery clay expresses unsophisticated and sober feelings. Using them in different proportions can express many other different feelings. Some of our glazes just come from the ordinary shop but we mix them in our own way and grind some with aerolite or other special stone. In general, our pieces will give you a sense of nature after firing'

  

We are delighted to have some of their pieces in our online store and will continue to treasure this partership for years to come.   In the evening we headed to the famous night market.  Here makers modern and traditional gather to sell their wares.  We came to meet my old friend Vincent & look for new makers to set up appointments with the following day.  With some exciting new makers met we headed back to rest.

The following day, having made great new connections at the night market, we start the day wandering the ancient alleyways - so beautifully restored - before taking a taxi to the Saturday morning pottery market [yes another one!]

  

The streets are lined with an array of different makers selling ceramics - we walk the streets & take it all in.  We enjoyed some very larger tankards of delicious Spring green tea & fall in love with these tea mats - what do you think?

  

Then it was time for our wonderful friend Vincent to collect us again - we navigated the traffic outside the market, jumped in the car and were immediately handed some wonderful cold brew Long Jing to sip along the way!  Delicious!

Our first appointment is the studio of Lai Mi Mi & her husband Huang Xiaokang who are both painters. I had first met  Lai Mi Mi several years ago in the night market and I had kept her details.  Once I knew we were coming back I recontacted her & had the great honour to be welcomed to her home and studio   

  

Lai Mi Mi & her husband   Huang Xiaokang order white porcelain pieces and then paint beautiful scenes on them.  Lai Mi Mi explained how she is from other province where she studied at the Guo JiaShandong University.  She explained, [while we looked at pieces painted with peaches and famous scenes from Jingdezhen] - how the work she does today is now considered very traditional in Jingdezhen.  We looked at two different colours of pottery 'The greener type and the white are two typical colours of pottery' she explained.  'In the Tang dynasty the south was historically green and the white was from the north. From Song Dynasty it became more and more white and then later came the blue and white and more possibility to show expression'

As we sipped we talked some more 'My husband is Huang Xiaokang  - his stage name is Danqing and he was born in 1988 in Qingyang, Gansu Province, and graduated from the famous Jingdezhen Ceramic University.   He has an incomparable passion for ceramic painting, and dares to innovate according to the clay and tradition. He is a representative of outstanding contemporary young ceramic artists mainly focussed on flowers, birds, landscapes and animals'

  

'His works are delicate and elegant, and the composition is rigourous and profound. On the basis of traditional pottery art, he has enriched his personal language, and has been studying and innovating, striving to create more works. The work is meticulously portrayed and highly praised by industry insiders and collectors. Senior technician of Chinese ceramics, inheritor of Jingdezhen ceramics intangible cultural heritage, Jiangxi arts and crafts artist, member sof Jingdezhen Chinese and foreign ceramic artists association. His biography is published in various ceramic magazines such as the collection of ceramic art works in Jingdezhen City'

 
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We marvelled at the intricate work & discussed how we can work together in the future - we are excited to bring you some of these beautiful and traditional pieces. New friends [in the most unlikely of places - here you see the tower block that houses the studio - there are studios literally everywhere here!] made we got back in the car to head to our next step - to see young artist 
Tao who we had met at the night market the evening before. 

  

Tao is 24, just starting out & originally studied computer generated mould before taking a teacher for ceramics & learning to make tea ware.  

   

He aims to make usable pieces inspired by the old times which we are interested in using at the Tea House.  We very much liked his simple designs and are looking forward to supporting this young artist.  

Our next stop saw us heading to the river and a beautiful studio belonging to Lu Dan Cheng.  He predominantly uses a grey clay - alternating glazes dependant on the clay used.   His whole style is about making his pieces looked aged 'as if they have lived'.  Lu Dan Cheng explains 'This style can make you feel peace and enjoy tea'.  Since Graduating in 2016 from Jingdezhen Lu Dan Cheng stayed and never left - 'I am very fond of it here' he shares. 

   

Lu Dan Cheng is a very peaceful person living by the river enjoying making pottery.  He shares how he enjoys pottery because in his daily life he stays in his shop, does his designs and lives his peaceful life in a space he can share with his friends.  'I enjoy this type of working life' he shares and sitting in his studio we can see why.  We are very excited to develop this relationship further and know you will love his works as much as we do!

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Our final stop was to see Zhao Hui who specialises in a combination of ceramic & metal work.  We had seen his works at the market and were drawn in by his unique combination of materials.  After he graduated he explained 'I started working with metal - taking inspiration from some asian styles with patterns which I modernised'  We look forward to bringing some of his unique pieces to Comins later this year.

  

All in all a very successful trip to Jingdezhen - hopefully this blog has given you an insight into the unbelievable creative spirit in this city.  Many of these partnerships will deliver new teaware to us over the coming months and we cant wait to share them, and their stories with you! 

 



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