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fw: jingdezhen, dec 20, 2006 ric swenson

updated wed 20 dec 06


Ric Swenson on tue 19 dec 06

December 20, 2006, JingDeZhen, P.R. China, Ric Swenson
Happy Holidays to all from China. The Christmas celebration here is an exte=
nsion for most people of the Feb 17-18 Spring Festival. Spring festival i=
s a time to have reunions with the family. Spring cleaning of the house bri=
ngs a fresh start for the year. Dumplings are the food of the season. Red l=
anterns adorn the houses and streets. Christmas eve I give one final test a=
nd Christmas Day I give two classes their finals. I will visit my family, =
in Atlanta between Jan 16 and Feb 22, when we have a winter break between t=
erms. The school pays for my travel both ways. We don=92t get paid a lot, b=
ut some of the perks are pretty nice.
Santa and trees are everywhere now. Gifts will be presented to others and s=
pecial meals will be served. There are Christians here=85. and they will o=
bserve the =91keep Christ in Christmas=92 type of celebration and others wi=
ll give gifts and celebrate in their own Taoist/Buddhist ways. Interesting =
clash of cultures, but no load clash=85a soft mingling. The government seem=
s tolerant if not very supportive. Just today, my freshmen students present=
ed me with a decorated Christmas tree=85nearly brought me to tears=85they w=
ere so sweet and sincere=85they know I will not be with my family until aft=
er Jan 15 to go back to USA until Feb 22=85when I return to China for anoth=
er year=85., so they were very thoughtful and curious about how I would cel=
ebrate Xmas in the States. We sang carols for a half hour. Nice.
Dumplings seem to be eaten on special occasions and it=92s no different in =
this region of central Eastern China. Bao dz and Jao dz are two types I ha=
ve tried and like very much.. One with pork, fried and the other with vege=
table filling and steamed There is an art to making these dumplings.=20
The merchants, of course, take advantage of any opportunity to sell goods a=
nd services. And the drive to receive gifts comes from children and adults =
who have heard about this wonderful Santa guy. And his habit of giving gift=
s to those who have =93been good=94. I have been invited to several celebra=
tions and was approached by a young Christian gentleman last Friday who inv=
ited me to attend their Christian church service on the 24th or 25th.(I wil=
l go!...Dale and Jill take note!).
I gave my lecture/slide talk last Friday to a S.R.O. houseful of artists an=
d art students at Caroline Cheng=92s Pottery Workshop at the Sculpture Fact=
ory close to the JCI old campus, where I live.
I talked in English and Joey Tsao translated (and added his own comments, I=
think? He seemed to get laughs more than I did. Language barrier?). Just o=
ver an hour and I showed a lot of images of my previous and current works=
=85 on the digital computer setup from my flash stick memory device. (AC/DC=
instead of Power Point was used cause it=92s so much more simple.) My new =
images were all shot by a pro and look much nicer than my earlier photos. C=
areful lighting and no =93hot spots=94; a gray neutral background. and lots=
of pixels!=20
My work in China has been influenced by my exposure to the culture and work=
done here. The materials I used are locally influenced / produced. My exh=
ibition opens Dec 22, Friday at 7 PM. There will be refreshments, flowers, =
birds and 6 dancing angels (students who will float around the gallery like=
angels to the tunes of =93I Believe I Can Fly=94). It should be fun.
30 Chinese artists open their exhibition in the gallery on the first floor=
of the Pottery Workshop, that same night, so there will be a lot of folks =
at the two openings. Firecrackers will be used to attract attention as is t=
he usual form here in China. In the Buddhist tradition, I will release seve=
ral birds as a gesture of goodwill to nature=85.and =91wings=92 is the them=
e after all.
I collaborated with several artists on some pieces. That keeps my thinking=
fresh and allows me to challenge other potters and sculptors to do somethi=
ng different and be truly creative, in my view. One artist added steel wing=
s to a tall celadon form. Another used wire and beautiful ribbon to form wi=
ngs on an unglazed porcelain textured form. Another used four of his painti=
ngs, on heavy paper, rolled in =91cone shapes=92 to add wing forms to a tal=
l yellow glazed porcelain form.=20
In all I have 47 pieces to show. All are finished, but I must disassemble s=
ome in order to transport them by hand cart the 2 km. to the gallery this w=
eek. Students have volunteered to help me carry the pieces down the four fl=
ights of stairs of the dormitory and back up the second floor gallery at th=
e Workshop. I will also use some of the many ink sketches I=92ve made in th=
e past 6 months to adorn the walls of the gallery. I printed 2000 invitatio=
ns with a four-color process photo of a favourite winged jar. I will be del=
ighted if a few hundred folks show up. I certainly hope 2,000 people don=
=92t come=85YIKES! There would be no room to turn around!
Carpenters, tile layers, plumbers and electricians wait on the East Bridge =
over the river. You can see them waiting with the saw a-ready, or buckets =
of cement and grout. This is where people looking for a craftsman for home =
repairs can come to find their guy to do the work.. You can tell an electri=
cian by his tool belt. Power is pretty much 240 volts. Codes seem to be li=
ttle enforced. Pretty simple wiring. Nothing like our tightly regulated and=
watched over power mavins in the USA. Here on the bridge there are no uni=
ons, no office, no overhead, no receipt, no problems, no worries.
Sunny but chilly here now, =91the frost is definitely on the pumpkin=92. St=
udents wear MANY layers of clothing. There is no central heating. The clas=
srooms are NOT heated=85so I dress in layers also. Classes consist of two 5=
0 minute sessions back to back with a ten minute break between sessions, on=
ce a week. It=92s the same at Gao Zuan Art School where I teach Contemporar=
y Ceramic Arts. I use downloaded images of certain artists, potters, styles=
, countries, etc.. I use a flash stick to carry pictures to the college=92s=
computer projector=85certainly more convenient than the old Kodak Carousel=
projector with slides which I lugged around for so many years. (God bless =
Bill Gates and his ilk.)
600 days until the Beijing Olympics. As one might expect, athletes here are=
heros to many of the youth. The Rockets NBA star Yao Ming and Liu Xiang ( =
the current 110 M hurdles world record holder at 12.88 seconds) are like go=
ds to the youngsters in China. The Asian Games at Doha have just finished t=
his past weekend. Asia=92s tune up for the Olympics. China took 116 gold me=
dals I believe. Korea was second with around 56.=20
The Chinese are looking for 100,000 volunteers to help with the Olympics Ga=
mes, which start 8/8/08. Most of the volunteers will come from the Universi=
ties in Beijing, from what I hear. The pictures I=92ve seen of the track an=
d field stadium ( nicknamed =91the Bird=92s nest=92) and the natatorium for=
water sports which looks like water bubbles from the outside, will certain=
ly be finished in plenty of time for the games and feature some fantastic v=
I must prepare for my exhibition opening Friday, so will close for now.
Happy all=85. and remember to keep that stick on the ice!
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