The International Artist Residency I’m participating in takes place at the Pottery Workshop, in the Sculpture Factory. This area is made up of hundreds of little privately-run studios and shops making commercial figurative sculpture. The whole mass-production mentality here is hard to get used to, but once you figure out the timing and rhythm of things, you can get a lot accomplished by inserting yourself and your needs into the perpetual cycle of mould-making, slip-casting, glazing, firing, and so on. There’s someone here for every ceramic-related job you can think of, including the Carry Man and the Crack Man – yes, he goes around fixing cracks in porcelain greenware! You have to pay them all of course, but the costs are very reasonable. It’s a cash economy and somehow it works.
I’ve extended my stay here at the Pottery Workshop for an extra week to fit everything in. I’ve continued to make fabric-formed models for moulds, using textiles purchased in the Open Market. I’m experimenting with stretching fabric on a wooden form, learning how much stretch is enough, or when it’s too much. Then the fabric form is filled with plaster and a mould made from this plaster positive. I’ve had Master Tang make five large moulds so far. Multiple forms have been slip-cast in these moulds by Master Zhu, using the Jingdezhen Super White porcelain. These sections can be stacked interchangeably to create tree trunk-like columns on bases. Once the clay forms are cast, I’m applying cobalt transfers and using physical vapour deposition, which leaves a thin film of metal on the porcelain surface. Michael is also coordinating the making of custom decals for large porcelain tiles, 68 cm × 37 cm. I’ve taken a carving workshop since the last time I wrote, and am learning about the vagaries and rewards of working with a porcelain that carves like butter and fires like glass.