Handicraft pottery art

By Ge Jieru ( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2015-03-30

In Yunnan's Jianshui county, artists make purple pottery by hand, making Jianshui pottery stand out from the crowd. The process of making a successful product includes five steps, with each step requiring a great deal of effort and attention.

Step 1: Shaping

The clay produced in Jianshui is soft and smooth and contains less sand and quartz than clay produced in Jiangsu's Yixin county. However, the soft and smooth clay creates more plasticity and is relatively weak. To compensate for this, Jianshui pottery requires the use of traditional slow shaping craft teqniques. Jianshui pottery is only shaped by hand, making it different from other types of pottery.

Handicraft pottery art

A professional potter shapes wet clay on a potter's wheel on July 25, 2014. [Photo/China Daily]

Step 2: Decorating

Decorations are invaluable for Jianshui pottery pieces, as the paintings or calligraphy from a famous artist can significantly increase the market value of a product. Machinery that is widely used in the production of Yixin and Jingdezhen pottery cannot be used here because the base of the clay is still too soft.

Handicraft pottery art

Artists carve decorations onto the surface of Jianshui pottery [Photo/Yunnan.cn]

Step 3: Carving and filling

The carving and filling process of Jianshui pottery needs to be done when the pottery is still wet to ensure that the clay filling and clay body will fit perfectly.

The decoration seen on the surface of a pot is actually created through carving instead of paint, which is used for many other kinds of pottery. Artists will carve the decorated area on the surface and refill the notches with clay of another color. This skill is unique to Jianshui and is extremely difficult, especially since any difference in humidity can produce bubbles which would destroy the whole product.

Handicraft pottery art
Artisans filling Jianshui potteries [Photo/Yunnan.cn]

Step 4: Firing

The major difference between pottery and porcelain lies in the firing temperature. The firing temperature of pottery is around 900 C, while porcelain is fired at around 1,200 to 1,300 C. The firing temperature of Jianshui Pottery is over 1,100 C. The ingredients of Jianshui Pottery are very similar to porcelain, and the high temperature makes it rock solid.

Handicraft pottery art
Fired Jianshui pottery (R) [Photo/Yunnan.cn]

Step 5: Polishing

Aside from the carving and filling processes, another process that makes Jianshui Pottery stand out is polishing. Most pottery is polished with enamel, a substance similar to glass containing quartz, feldspars and kaolin. Jianshui Pottery, on the other hand, is polished only with tools such as pebbles. The delicate texture, splendid curves and bright surface of Jianshui Pottery comes from the special polishing skills involved.

Handicraft pottery art
Artists polish the fired pottery with special tools [Photo/Yunnan.cn]

Yang Di contributed to this story
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