Grace working in the Fuping Pottery Art Village Workshop, October 2007 (building a tree form)

Hi everyone,

Here are a few more photos of me and my work in Fuping.

I continued working with the tree theme throughout the Fuping Residency and managed to complete seven pieces in total. The basic tree forms were press-moulded in forms I made from trees or stumps that had been cut down on site at the Fuping Pottery Art Village. I embedded both organic and ornamental motifs in the walls of the ceramic trees. The ornamental motifs were taken from factory moulds, and I made clay bisque moulds from materials I collected on site, such as branches and cobs of corn. By embedding the motifs into the trees’ walls, I created a fossil-like appearance that was enhanced by rubbing black copper oxide into the surface. The trees’ surfaces were further embellished with branch, rope, corn, wave, dragon scale, and other ornamental motifs inspired by the tile factory and our surroundings there. My ceramic trees were finished with terra sigillata (which I managed to make using Jingdezhen porcelain and the beautiful red terra cotta which was one of the factory clays). In addition I used a cream-coloured vitreous slip and bronze glaze, also both formulated using Jingdezhen porcelain, which were applied before once-firing the pieces. I experimented with using nearly all of the factory clays made available to us, and the cut cross section of each tree was left unglazed to expose the natural colour of the clay body.

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Grace working in the Fuping Pottery Art Village Workshop, October 2007 (press moulding in a tile factory dragon mould, glazing for once-firing)

The cut has become a critical element of the trees I am gathering and transforming into clay. The trees stand as memorials. The cuts are resonant of loss and absence, and the embedded motifs testify to the tree’s history, both its organic and cultural past. With the trees I made in China, there is a connection made not only to the tree’s former biological life, but also to the ceramic history of China. The tile factory in Fuping specializes in making roof tiles, including decorative architectural tiles that are traditional in style. One example is the dragon motif, a symbol of power that historically was reserved exclusively for Imperial Chinese architecture. The dragon motif is one I employed while working at the Fuping Pottery Art Village and other traditional Chinese ornamentation was applied to the surface of my trees, including the wave pattern.

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From Fuping Tree Group #1 and Fuping Tree Group #2 – with corn and rope motifs, China, 2007

In addition to the organic and ornamental embellishment already described, a type of new textual “bark” gradually built up on the surface of my ceramic trees. Using my own handwriting, the same words were repeated over and over again, until eventually the text was rendered illegible and became textural. Words such as devastated or the Latin, devastatus, and also remembered and rememorari were built up layer upon layer, until they began to create a suggestion of renewed growth. The final result had a lace-like appearance, reminiscent of the lacebark trees I saw in the Forbidden City in Beijing. The proliferation of this protective calligraphic bark over the tree’s surface began to hint at the potential for regeneration and recovery.

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Fuping Uprooted Tree #1 – with dragon scales and corn motifs, China,

I am continuing to make ceramic trees at NSCAD in Halifax and plan to create a small forest for my MFA exhibition. I would like to take this opportunity to thank NSCAD for granting me a leave of absence from my busy MFA schedule and for supporting my participation in this significant cross-cultural event.

Best wishes to all,
Grace

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Fuping Uprooted Tree #2 with dragon scales and wave motifs, China, 2007

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Fuping Commemorative Tree, China, 2007

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