I think someone who really cares about making ceramics should showcase the clay's character and try to make things in a natural way. I am Fang Chengzhe, a ceramic crafts practitioner. To be precise, I am a chinaware maker. Now I mainly make glazed vases, also known as celadon, made in the Yue-Kiln style.
Chinaware was born and continues to be developed along Hangzhou Bay. In Hangzhou, which was the capital in the Southern Song Dynasty, excellent ceramic varieties are often excavated, which teaches us a lot about ancient pottery. It was due to the history and relationship of chinaware with this land, that I decided to make Yue-Kiln chinaware. I make it in the most traditional way, by pulling clay on my potter's wheel. I also use the most traditional formula with ceramic stone as the main component. And I like to use a grey coating.
If it is coated with grey, it will look plain yet serene. I prefer simple forms and try to concentrate on shapes with simple lines. I have strict requirements for sponging. Sometimes I can be rigorous, but often I will use more delicate sponging methods. Repetition and fixing up any mistakes ensures forming perfect lines. I also use simple trailing, as is common in engraved designs at the Yue-Kiln.
There are many different ways to engrave patterns. I always make 3D engravings by hand. This method is quite original, although it takes a lot of time and skill. It also gives chinaware a natural feeling.
Lotus-shaped chinaware is something I have made a lot of this year. Lotus flowers are also a very common pattern in chinaware. It is especially widely used in Yue-Kiln tea sets, and suggests a level of elegance. I also use it in my tea sets. It makes people feel a sense of calm and reminds the drinker to respect the tea. I insist on glazing with conventional methods because the chinaware stays plain and natural. Plant ash is my main raw material. I hunt for these materials in the countryside around Hangzhou. Then I heat it at a high temperature and wash it; rinse and repeat. After airing the washed plant ash, I mix it with common ceramic stone and then I bake it and add gloss.
Most often, conventional workmanship can only be revitalized when it is connected with the modern lifestyle. In fact, what I do is just following in the footprints of my predecessors. So it is unbelievable to me that plant ash, such an original material, is still in demand today, baked in Yue-Kiln, coated in what the Tang Chinese people described as 'the colour of a thousand emerald peaks'.