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handmade brushes, jingdezhen

updated mon 26 jun 06


Dale Neese on sun 25 jun 06

Ah, I just visited most of the brush stores in Jingdezhen earlier last week.
Picking a few from Shen Yu Hua's place. Then I bought a sack full from the
lady at the corner of the alley too. I had fun bargaining for handfuls of
brushes during which time dozens of passers by stopped to watch the
action... passing the calculator back and forth. When a good size crowd
developed I quickly showed them the ole "pull off your thumb trick". Slight
of hand trick made jaws drop and squeals from the kids. Then I quickly
walked away. I didn't leave them speechless as I could hear them laughing a
half block away.
The brushes in China vary in style and quality. My recommendation is that
you do not let your Chinese brushes stay in liquid for extended periods of
time otherwise they will deform and fall apart. The glue is not the best in
the world and they will be ruined if you like a sharp point on a brush. When
finished rinse them good and give the handle a quick rap on the edge of the
sink and the brush hairs will come to a fine point. Let it dry and the brush
will be ready for the next use. I don't use all that many brushes in my work
but had people ask me to grab some for them while I was in China. My
favorite brushes to use are the large mop like brushes for applying slips.
We stopped by the Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen to see Caroline Cheng's
workshop progress and Chen Guanghui who was working on a sculpture
collaboration piece with several other visiting artists at the time. The
Pottery Workshop is a great place to do a residency. They have a wonderful
facility ( where Mel had is Iron Saga exhibition) and all the expertise in
making porcelain that you would ever need to create pottery or porcelain

Chen Guanghui (Alfred graduate) whom I met in previously in 1998 is now
head of the ceramic department at Shanghai University. He and his wife Kang
Qing have a beautiful ceramic exhibition at the Two Cities Gallery in
Shanghai at the moment.
We had fun together catching up on old times while at San Bao watching the
late night, early morning World Cup soccer games. This is when a good cup of
tea is the best for me.
At the Pottery Workshop I unexpectedly ran into David Furman making some of
his seated figures out of porcelain. He came tooling around a corner wearing
just a clay covered apron, cut offs and flip flops. It was hot and humid in
Jingdezhen. Both of us were surprised. David was the guest artist at Ceramic
Weekend in San Angelo Texas just this past April and it was nice to see him
again. Last person I expected to run into in Jingdezhen.

All of our group stayed at San Bao
for a week during the 28 day trip. I made the most of the time there making
over a dozen pieces and was able to get them fired before leaving. The
humidity of air was a problem for clay and porcelain drying but we put
everything out in the sun when it shone to get them dry. Arrangements were
made to have a kiln load heated overnight to completely dry the clay. We
then glazed the raw porcelain and stoneware and high fired them to cone 12
the next day.
When I get my kiln fired this week and back from a craft festival sale this
next weekend I intend to post some of my photos of the China trip to the
internet for viewing. All it takes is time which I am in short supply of
this week.
I loved returning to visit China for the second time. China is an amazing
country with huge changes sweeping the cities. Much since the last time I
was there. I didn't recognize much of Jingdezhen. Even the porcelain market
is not the same as it once was. What is sad is the loss of traditional
methods, crafts. Bamboo to plastic. The Chinese can't understand why we want
to see the "old China". They tell us to visit the new cities and see the
wealth and prosperity.
Back to the studio.

Dale Tex
"across the alley from the Alamo"
San Antonio, Texas USA