In the southern part of the mountainous heartland of China is an iconic city rich in history and culture. The one and half million people that live there navigate the city in what seemed to be utter chaos, but was actually a well-choreographed normality of everyday life. Go to the city center and you will find various groups of people carrying out aerobic exercises, carts of freshly steamed dumplings, and life-scale bronze statues of working potters. This is the city of Jingdezhen, commonly referred to as the world's ‘porcelain capital.’ Everywhere you look there are porcelain workshops, giftshops, antique shops, potters, sculptors, glazers, and kilns. Between them are delicate porcelain works being transported by the cartful amongst the rapid buzz of cars and scooter horns.
|A bronze sculpture of a potter in the city center.|
|A crosswalk signal in Cobalt Blue|
|A typical Porcelain shop|
|An example of Takeshi's current work|
I discovered Takeshi’s work while studying abroad in England. I came across the Design Sourcebook: Ceramics by Edmund De Waal and found a section devoted to Takeshi’s creamware series. I was drawn to the work for the way that it solved the simple problems of ergonomics and utility. Takeshi has a clever sense of discovering how pots can be held and how they work. His current work is a continuation of his ingenuity, but I do think that it has a heightened sense of process. He talked to me about how the potter's wheel was invented to help ease the process of rapidly making pottery and how he tries to explore different applications of it as a tool to make personalized expression. Pots are at times assembled with thrown pieces that were formed upside down, the lips of bowls are formed by violently ripping clay from the walls, and tool markings are left to deliberately archive a cut or scrape mark during the plastic state of the porcelain. He told me that he is not concerned with efficiency or rapid production, but rather with whatever is necessary to make the intended expression. Each mark is made using the seductive local porcelain and barely-blue glaze, occasionally embellished with a brilliant gold luster. It’s a glacial, enduring surface that enables the work to evoke a timeless presence. Takeshi’s work is a collection of ideas that challenge common practices of making vessels and the result is always a straightforward well executed formal gesture.
My job was to immerse myself in Jingdezhen through the lens of Takeshi Yasuda’s studio and learn as much as I could about this wild new place. The challenge of taking full advantage of such a rare opportunity is as exciting as it is daunting. Thanks again to the Norther Clay Center and the Warren Mackenzie Advancement Award for the ability to take this trip.