Not sure where to find pottery tools in Jingdezhen? Heading back from the glaze shops in the main drag of Jingdezhen, I see the glaze shops are also among some pottery tool shops. Oh my. Does this ever end? Tools, tools and more tools. Can it be? Am I dreaming? This just doesn’t happen back home. Back there, which seems so far away right now, there’s one shop for glazes, clays, raw materials, equipment and tools. Having separate shops for separate items makes a lot of sense here in the porcelain capital of China of course but back home it would simply be overkill. There’s a small supply of tools at the Pottery Workshop which I may make use of but I’m also glad I brought some of my own along. Might pay to explore the surrounding streets too. Trimming tools here are either super expensive and hand made, similar to the Kemper tools or super cheap, stainless steel and blunt. Mine are middle-of-the-road but need constant sharpening. The endless supply of tools here is simply enormous, but it does pay to shop around.
Travel hint no. 17 – Ask for help and shop around for tools. There are tools, and well… there are tools.
Pottery Workshop Jingdezhen – back street (© Deanna Roberts 2016)
There’s simply not the demand here, in Melbourne, for this extensive supply of ceramic resources. As it is the ceramics industry hardly has a foot in the door. Government funding for the arts has been cut heavily. TAFE colleges have closed their ceramic departments or reducing the amount of courses available to the public. It’s such a shame. I have to say that when I first started studying ceramics in the early nineties, I never imagined I’d be in Jingdezhen 20+ years later. I didn’t even know it existed. Yet, here I am.
Travel hint no. 18 – Take someone with you when you’re shopping; someone who can speak and read the language.
Shopping here can be a challenge in more ways than one. Before you even venture into the shops though, learn to navigate the traffic. If you come from a land like mine where we drive on the left side of the road and right-hand drive, then Jingdezhen traffic makes no sense at all. It’s the opposite. Not only that but traffic lights are for reference only and seat belts are virtually non-existent if you take a cab anywhere. Motor bikes are everywhere but helmets are not. They’re extremely rare. They might as well wear a porcelain bowl on their head. It’s just so unsafe. The motorbikes are also electric and very quiet so they’ll sneak up on you. Wave your arms abut wildly while walking on the footpath but don’t be surprised if you collect someone coming up behind you who doesn’t toot first. Even then, that can scare the crap out of you but then again, listen to the road traffic and all you hear are horns tooting. It’s not so much about impatience but more about warning the car in front of you that you’re going to overtake and use a lane that doesn’t exist except in the oncoming traffic. Oh wait… there’s a family on a bike and there’s one child strapped in to a baby deck chair across the footrest of the bike, and another in between the adults, totally trusting and oblivious to the potential dangers. What the?
Jingdezhen traffic and glaze shops (© Deanna Roberts 2016)
Crossing the road for the first time? OMG. I want my Mum! I think I’m going to die. I can’t see the oncoming traffic for the bus in the way so I follow everyone else that I assume knows what they’re doing. All of a sudden I make instant friends with a man holding a shovel, as you do, on the back o a motorbike with his wife upfront. The endless tooting sounds momentarily disappear as all I can hear is “Ooh oo oo oo ooh!”. I think this must be Chinese for ‘Get the hell out of the way you stupid, bloody, blind, clueless foreign woman!’, or certainly something along those lines. With a shovel imprint on my leg and the sounds of abuse ringing in my ears I waddle to the other side of the road, relieved but also panicky. I know, somehow, that I’ve got to attempt a road crossing again if I want to make it back to my brick bed and doona tonight. Roads are definitely a challenge.