Invited!
It happened to me and I was quite eager to go. Of course.
China always found itself in the centre of the world.
They were the ones that made ceramics to a great craft...

the date:

November 20, 1996

 

 

 

speeches

The event was historical! 
Western potters were invited to work together with local potters in Yixing, China.

 

 

 

 

Pic left:
Welcoming party: lots of speeches...

 

virtual teapots

one virtual design as printed in the Chinese Magazine "Purple Sands'

Guh Wei Fen

I'd never made a teapot in my life.
Designed, yes. Actually made, no.

Since this was a 'teapot-congress', I sat myself behind the computer and played with the CAD/CAM software. Results were some possible teapots, but mostly impossible ones.
Right: one of these computer-renderings.

Play with visual/graphical software is fun:
No dirty hands and results that look like real... :-)

A very select group of 21 Western potters (16 from the USA, 2 Australian, 1 French, 1 German and 1 Dutch) assembled in Shanghai to be transported (as guests of 'Factory No. 5') to Dingshu, Yixing.

 

Yixing is seen as the 'birthplace' of the teapot.

 

 

 

p

demonstrations

The first day was filled with demo's. We were often surprised by the techniques we saw. 
Some were so simple, that we were surprised that we had never seen them before, or had thought of them ourselves.(This part of China had been closed to Westerners for quite some time).
Then we were invited to work ourselves.
In a big cold concrete hall there were small tables, the special tools and the famous Yixing clay...
We were allowed to choose a 'teacher' who would help us to master the special Yixing techniques.

The reception was great and no effort was too big to let us see all, taste all and experience all....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In exchange for that, the Western potters each donated one of their unique teapots, made in their own studios at home.
They also worked together with the Chinese Masters to introduce them to the unlimited individualism and imagination that is so characteristic to our art and to the West in general. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo right:
porcelain teapot, made in Holland
Yixing Collection, 8cm high
(I made 3 in total)

condo-pot

carolyn broadwell

Many of the resulting artworks turned out to be hybrids from Western an Eastern ways of thinking...

 

 

 


Pic left: Chinese master-potter working on Carolyn Broadwell's pot: a very individual body, created with chance as an element, and a Chinese handle and spout

 

spout-making

polishing

Pic 1st left: A spoke (from a bicycle wheel) is a neat tool to make a teapot-spout.
All you need is some skill and patience.
Thousand year-old techniques...

Pic 2nd left: endless polishing. I witnessed 'only' 20 minutes of this action: polishing, refining, polishing, fitting, refining and polishing.
Repeat this limitless times and you have the perfect Yixing teapot

No potters wheel,
No mould to cast in.

Only the beating of clay, beating, beating, beating of the clay.
Until so dense, so manageable, fit to mount.

And then:
polishing, measuring, polishing, polishing, measuring and polishing once more, until perfection is reached.

The perfection collectors so much appreciate
in Yixing...

After that first day with demo's
we were allowed to 'make our own'

Obviously the Chinese thought it weird
to see these 'long-noses' struggle with their clay.
Most of all they were surprised to see Western artists display individuality and artisticity,
rather than perfection and functionalism.

jeroen

I knew I had to make the best use of the incredible techniques available in this place...
Thousands of years of an isolated development and people, trained in these ways from young onwards, were too good an opportunity.

I was very happy to use my experience as a designer, and left the making to the masters there...
The results were a symbioses between two worlds, two ways of looking, interpretations, respect and intelligence from both sides.

work in progress

 

 

 

 

Picture left:

"Swan", as the Chinese named this pot, or "Twist", as I call it, half way under  construction.

You can see how the complicated handle was divided into 3 parts...

 

Only simple tools are needed to produce these small artworks: a wooden hammer to beat the clay to sheets, a knife and chopsticks. 
Craftsmanship is the other factor...

 

It is astonishing to see how skilled hands can make any idea into a reality.

I was fortunate enough to chose Guh Wei Fen.
She combines superb technique with a good working brain and lots of imagination. She was able to transform my virtual daydreaming into reality. 
Virtual pots, never even intended to become actual, are now functional pots.
In an extremely limited edition...

Guh Wei Fen

 

Jeroen Bechtold and Guh Wei Fen

This is how I would sit next to Guh Wei Fen, the master-potter from Yixing.

We had no language to communicate, other than drawing, thumbs up or smiles. And then there was the interpreter if things threatened to go wrong.

And it was COLD!
(this explains why I have my coat on, hat on head, even inside)

How spoiled we, Westerners, are... ;-)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pics up, left and below:
Half way the making process of my virtual designs

Cutting the leather hard pot was one task Guh Wei Fen didn't want to do. No way. Cutting a good pot in two halves! She must have thought -I don't know what- about it.

It was the only thing I had to do, the only time I actually held the pot in my hands and did something to it.

But the result is incredible.

(go to:to see the results of this cooperation)

work in progress

 

 

A highly select group of Western Potters were invited by organiser Ah Leon who chose amongst his friends and colleagues. And what a fine selection it was.

This is the list of artists who went there:

Janet Deboos (Australia)

Steve Davies (Australia)

Carolyn Broadwell (USA)

Susanne Wolfe (USA)

Karen Winograde (USA)

Anne Gary (USA)

Terry Gess (USA)

Billie Jean Theide (USA)

Richard Swanson (USA)

Fritz Rossmann (Germany)

Barbara Frey (USA)

Coille Hooven (USA)

Dominique Morin (France)

Geo Lastomirsky (USA)

John Neely (USA)

Richard Notkin (USA)

Pete Pinnell (USA)

Phillip Cornelius (USA)

Jeroen Bechtold (NL)

 

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links that may interest you:

the Yixing movie--- a short history --- my personal collection --- yixing teapots for sale--- Jeroen's Yixing Teapots