Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ho Lee Chow

Thought I'd show you the people that feed and water us here at the studio. They made us potatoes the other day and we didn't eat them all. I watched the one lady bite in to the cold spud and spit it out on the floor. She didn't like the texture of the skin so she threw them in the garbage. We are going to teach her to make hash browns and scrambled eggs. We get scrambled eggs and diced tomatoes which is really quite delicous( hao chi) or good eat!
Check out the fly paper by the cutting board. The man is the gatekeeper of the compound and he sells us beer, pop and water. Beer 3 Yuan, pop 2 Yuan, water 1 Yuan. One Yuan is 13 cents. That is a large wok of our rice on the floor and the greens are being shelled.
We had our Chinese lesson today from Mike an American student from WVU who has been here 3 times and is a China junkie. He is rooming with Bong the Chinese grad student and he truly loves this country and is a great ambassador of America (mei guo) which translates into beautiful country. He was teaching us phrases to put together to get around on the streets. As in any country people truly appreciate any small effort you make to speak their language.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Your new studio in China!

I thought I’d pick a couple of buildings to show you for your new studio. Check out the one stone building. I thought the Scots and the Italians were great stone masons. There are thousands of stone buildings that I’d like to pick up and move home. There are towns where I think if only a couple of American investors would buy these buildings this could be Shangri la. What I hate myself for thinking is that I’d like to live in an Americanized China. I can picture these little towns full of my version of potter’s studios, galleries, restaurants and galleries with sit down crappers. Why the hell would I want to travel to China if this is what I would find? I think I am here at a very unique time in China’s history. Wait till they all have cars!!!!!!!!!! Wait till they all have refrigerators and the fabulous water jar makers have no market for their wares. There will be no use for storage containers! The old man at the water jar factory told us that the young people didn’t want to work in the potteries any more and they all headed off to work in the restaurants of the big city. Bright lights, big city!

Food Alley

Food Alley
Food alley is where the people eat. You can eat, buy fruit, veggies , beer, cold drinks, shoot pool, play cards and get run over by a motorcycle. This is an alley of activity. Dishes being washed, fresh fish for your dinner are swimming in pails, the woks are flaming. Tonight we had BBQ and we had no idea of how to order. A friendly young woman came to our rescue and wrote our order out for us. We ordered way toooooooo much food and there is no such thing as take out. We had these delicous spring rolls of a thin tofu slice with a plum sauce and lettuce and cumber. I am now venturing into the washed veggies since I figure the bowls I’m eating out of were washed out in the street so my stomach must have built up some kind of tolerance. The chopsticks we use each day are washed in boiling hot water and I still brush my teeth with bottled water . I forgot my camera but I would like to have shown you our table after dinner. All the meat seems to have a bone attached and you put the bones on the table. Our table was covered in bones, peanut shells, sunflower shells, bottle caps and pieces of skin and fat that we didn’t want to eat. Every table in the joint looks like a compost pile. BBQ for 3,3 beers, rice is free and the bill was 50 yuan or $6.50.
I no longer carry a wallet and try not to have 100 Yuan notes. 100 Yuan is $13 and it is very hard to get cashed. People think you’re rich if you flash 100 Yuan notes.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Mr. Noodle

Mr. Noodle

On the weekends we are on our own for food. That is the time to hit food alley and Mr. Noodle is a must go. Ron and Hester Myers frequented there and Hester sent a book for me to give to his daughter. She’s the cutie in the purple beside her pa pa.
Mr. Noodle is shaving the noodles dao xiao mian which means shaved or cut noodles for John and Trev. I had the stretched beef noodle soup (lia mian). You see him stretch and pound the dough on the table. Here is John and Trev in the dining room of Mr. Noodle’s. I picked up the tab for lunch being the big spender that I am. Three meals and two waters 12 yuan. Yep, that’s not quite a dollar.

Damn right, I got da blues!

Joe Molinaro of Eastern Kentucky U and I visited a factory full of little rooms, full of ladies working making decals. If it was a sweat shop it was Joe and I that were the only two sweating. It was steaming hot in there and the charcoal stove was lit in the middle of the room with the tea kettle going. The women have to produce 1000 decal sheets per day. You can buy 1000 sheets for $13. Rumour has it they sell for $13 US a sheet in Japan. Not a bad profit margin. I bought a handful at half a yuan a sheet or 6 cents a sheet. They are mostly blue but there was black, green and red. Jingdezhen loves it's blue and white. I thought the decals might be nice cut up and positioned on Sheila's boxes but then Sheila's favourite decoration is no decoration. The blue goo was spread on an engraved plate with the design on it, the goo is scraped off, a sheet put on top and then pressed thru a mini slab roller. The sheets are then spread behind the ladies to dry. These are high temperature stains so they make look very nice on a white porcelainous stoneware and wood fired.
We then went to a shop where 3 women were making little clay butterflies.
This was a nice studio with lots of light and very clean.
The two Chinese grad students were our angels. They took us where we would never have ventured or even be allowed to go. They also paid for our taxi cabs. Want to be a grad student in China- start by being bilingual!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mr. Tight

Remember here in Jingdezhen they trim bone dry and they make slab pots in a really hard slab state. Look at how he measured the thickness of the slab, lays his ruler that thickness into the slab and cuts a 45 degree angle on the side of the table. He then puts a thick bead of the body slip with no scoring on the edge of the slab to join another slab. Same goes for the top slab. this is a stick and not a brush he is using to apply the slip. I wish he would leave that ooooooozing slip on the edge but this is Mr. Tight and the box will be perfect. He drilled 4 holes in the top to start the cuts for the gallery of the vase. Notice how he rounds out the corners of the gallery and then he puts his ruler up and cuts straight. This is to prevent the cut at the sharp corner which is the ketchup container principle. Make a wee slit in the ketchup bag and it's easy to rip. A small crack in the corner would become a place for the crack to start and keep going. He was also careful to align all the slabs in the same direction they were made. It was like he was dealing with the grain of wood. He indicated the grain should not go at cross purposes. Interesting!!! The finished vase is plain but remember all the decoration will be added by someone else. John Neely says the difference between a vazzzze and vassse is about $20.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Slab Man

It was fascinating to watch the slab guy make slabs. He says he often makes the slabs for the master slab builder. He used a board with raised feet so that he could pick up the board and move it around while working. He took a piece of thin canvas and soaked it in a pail of water and spread it out over the board. The clay was then pushed out with his hand to make a valley where his steel tube was laid on the sticks the thickness he wanted. He would then push the clay out with the roller and sometimes giving the wave he created a push forward with his hand. The board was then turned around and he finished the other end the same way. The board was picked up and he flipped the slab on the plaster bat on the floor, peeled off the wet canvas and on to do another one.

Rural China

People work very hard in China and they use almost everything that is around them. The bridges often have one lane covered with rice so that bikes and the odd car will drive over it. The bridge may also be used to hang out the laundry, dry fruit,nuts, slices of melon,hot peppers and mushrooms. Somehow when I get back to my room and look at the pictures they don't convey the beauty of this place. It is true that the people look poor compared to our standards of living but the produce is real and fresh. Rice is served 3 times a day so the growing and processing of rice is everywhere. I love seeing the people use their driveways and roof tops to dry the crop. The Chinese people are eating the 100 mile diet that is now all the rage in North America. The food is fabulous and fresh here. Granted the people work hard but I'm probably one of the chunkiest guys in the city.
The Chinese peoples bodies look healthy and you see many many very old people.
Here are some shots of rural China.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Holy roof, Batman

At the site of the ancient dragon kiln we watched two guys make roof tiles. You will see the huge slab of clay behind him where he slices off a wet soft slab to wrap around this collapsible bamboo form. He wraps it around, gives it a wee paddling and smoothing on his make shift wheel, carries it outside and the bamboo form collapses and he is off to make another one. As the standard of living increases the people will display their wealth by installing corrugated steel roofing. What we as craftspeople would do to have these wonderful clay tile roofs on our houses and studios. The views of the roof tops as you tour the country is a piece of art.

Mountain Money

My room mate Trevor is a spend thrift. He found us a kitchen table, a leather seat for his chair and a hat on a sewer cover. Here he is eating breakfast and packing his pockets with tissue to sell to people caught short on our long bus trip into rural China to the birthplace of kaolin. He maintains there is nothing worth more than tissue when you're desperate and in the mountains. I got a lot of pics to show you from this trip so stay tuned. Here is a ancient dragon kiln about 200 feet long used to fire water jars and roof tiles. Packing this kiln must be some job as it is literally up hill all the way. The jars are not thrown but coiled and paddled. We bought a small one for our room for 30 yuan or $4. Small means garbage pail size or about 15" tall. A beauty it is.
I feel privledged to be in China at this time. There is so much hand craft being done. Cutting, sorting and stacking rice, wood, tiles, mushrooms, peppers etc all seem to show such beautiful patterns. The roads, bridges and all available space are used to dry food. Even the roads are covered in rice which cars, bikes and our bus drive over.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Elvis is in the Building

Gang : It's been a uneventful weekend in terms of sightseeing and I don't want to show you my porcelain pottery failures as of yet. Young Danny Crump is the man about town and is doing everything Chinese he possibly can. He went in for a haircut and asked for something coooooooooooooooooooooool! 50 yuan for the dye job (about $6 and 8 yuan for the cut $1. They spent about an hour and half on him and washed his hair 3 times.He mistakenly thinks he looks cool with his #5 welders glasses.
The Chinese students Fong and Dong took me out for lunch today. I had to take a pass on the pig's feet. I was very flattered as they said they liked my work. Their work as undergrads is killer. I'll send pics of their work as it nears completion.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hard Labour

I thought I'd send y'all a few pics of the work you see all around. People here work hard. These pot bottoms must be for something huge. They are too wide at the bottom for the stop light or lamp posts you see all over town. I was so excited by the lamp posts but I haven't found one yet that I love. Most of them have quite hideous decoration. Here is a pic of 4 of the boys picking up a vase bottom that has just been decorated. They will move it to the glazer.
Our food is cooked in a large wok that is heated by coal brickettes. This husband and wife team are carting the coal up hill to the restaurants and shops that are their customers. There must be at least a 1000 lbs of coal on that bicycle/truck. Everything is for sale and everyone is selling something. Yesterday while sitting on the curb eating my lunch I watched a guy with a hand scale buy hair from the barber shop. Brushes?????????????????