I have in Yixing seen one of the strongest ceramic object in my life: a traditional Yixing teapot, yet innovative, made with a skill rare to see today: the closeness to material, uniqueness, local production, personalized aspect, authenticity, the importance placed on practical know-how: it is all in this tiny little Yixing pot.
China has deep, rich ceramics traditions and the city ofYixingalso has a deep, rich tradition of teapots. My former professor of the philosophy of art defined tradition as a balance of sedimentation and innovation. If you have too much sedimentation, you may have stagnation. If you have too much innovation, you may have chaos. Each person and each artist finds his or her own balance of sedimentation and innovation. Here in Yixing, it is impressive to see how so many wonderful teapot artists are able to find that personal balance. The wonderful tradition is retained while each artist has developed innovative ways to express him or herself within the tradition.
I was delighted to come to Yixing to see such beautiful work and meet many artists. This was my second visit to Yixing so I was very excited to see the famous teapots again. I particularly enjoyed visiting two studios. One was Wu Ming and the other was Gu Meiqun. Already I am showing my students these wonderful works back in theUK.
I first came to Dingshan in 1997 to participate in a program at Purple Sand Factory #5. We often went out for a walk in the area and as we walked down the streets we heard the sound of tapping, of clay hammers thinning out sheets of clay. We were often invited into the potter's workshop in the front room of the home, and usually found a small child sitting at the elbow of a parent or grandparent. At a very early age, they were already learning how to make zisha teapots. And now, almost twenty years later, I have met three young people, the children of old friends and master potters, who are training to carry on the zisha tradition. This is a great sign of encouragement, that the young are still eager to take up the centuries old traditions, and create new and exciting works that still continue to carry the rich flavor of their past history.