Not sure what the Sculpture Factory in Jingdezhen is all about? Well… it’s not a factory as such… but was once many moons ago. Today, the Sculpture Factory is a like a little village all on its own, scattered with masters, craftsman and artisans in just about every nook and cranny.
Today is a new day in Jingdezhen and the Sculpture Factory and I can’t wait to get started. There’s a small clay shop just up the road and I find some beautiful coffee-coloured stoneware/porcelain clays and a rather gritty/groggy pepper-speckled porcelain to play with. I’m in love. One of the young volunteers from the Pottery Workshop has accompanied me and she can thankfully can translate because I’m stuffed if I know how I’m going to be able to carry back 40 kg of clay. I’m told not to worry; we’ll call the Carry Man. She calls, he comes. That’ll be 20¥ thanks.
Jingdezhen and the Sculpture Factory
It’s not until months later that I learn how the Sculpture Factory came about. What I’ve learned today though is that there appears to be a ‘Man’ here in Jingdezhen for everything. Now… I mean that in the nicest, possible, polite way of course. 🙂 If you want a mould made you see the Mould-Maker Man. If you want beautiful flowers, you see the Flower Man. If you want your work glazed professionally (and I mean professionally! – ie by the masters that glaze work day in, day out, and have been for 20+ years), then you see the Glaze Man. For firing, go see the Kiln Man…. and so it goes on. A man for everything indeed… I must tell my husband. 😉
The Flower (and insect) Master at the Sculpture Factory (© Deanna Roberts 2016)
The glaze shops are next on the agenda. OMG. I’m a kid in a lolly shop. What a selection! It’s crazy. I’m handling all the samples… one in every colour of the rainbow no doubt. I love the look of a dry-red speckled glaze, oh but wait… there’s a gorgeous green one as well, and oh, a beautiful soft blue, and a white, and a gorgeous black… But then I’m told to wait because there’s so much more to see. What? More glazes than this? Yep….a whole lot more.
Travel hint no. 15 – Don’t bring any glazes – there’s simply no need.
One of many glaze shops in Jingdezhen (© Deanna Roberts 2017)
We cross the road to head for Paint Town, a shop that sells cobalt. I’m going to need this for my china blue and white painting class. Expecting to walk in and buy a small tub of dry cobalt oxide, I’m shown to at least 56 different flavours of cobalt; wet, and in a multiple shade of each. This is insane. I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s blue, darker and lighter blue, really mega-dark blue, and so dark it’s almost a black kind of blue. Oh wait… it is black. Oh… and there’s a green, and another gorgeous, royal blue. I settle for a rich, darker blue that looks like it will do for a beginner.
I ask one of the staff why the cobalt is wet and next thing the owner appears, invites me to sit down and gives me a lecture on wet cobalt and can’t understand why I would want it dry when it comes already prepared for painting. When I try to explain I want it for adding to my own glaze recipes it doesn’t seem to register. I’m interrupted over and over again and told, not asked, to remain sitting down. Inside I’m bursting with laughter, but I’m being polite and allowing this guy to share his view of the world and cobalt. He explains in fine detail how long it takes to prepare dry cobalt requiring it to be put outside to dry and then for the labour to grind it down and into a fine powder. It doesn’t seem to matter to him what I want to use it for. I’m in for the long haul here… a half-hour lecture is happening whether I like it or not. I’m still grinning on the inside though… this guy is fascinating. I’m listening intently. He’s also loud, very loud and I can see in my peripheral vision that the other customers are smiling at my expense. No doubt they’ve seen it all before.
Paint Town and wet cobalt (© Deanna Roberts 2017)
Finally, I’m directed to another little shop just up the road; a tiny little corner shop that sells dry cobalt and I’m glad to find that it’s about a quarter of the price of what I’d pay at home. The guy with the loud voice, the uncomfortable yet beautifully carved wooden seat I’m told to sit in and the smorgasbord of cobalt will be forever etched in my mind. I’m happy though. I have a few glazes to start playing with. So will you once you get to the Sculpture Factory in Jingdezhen.