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Overseas potters bring luxurious luster to China's ancient craft
Last Updated: 2016-04-27 09:23 | Xinhua
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It has taken August Wang from Taiwan and Guy Thompson from Britain four years of looking for inspiration and repeatedly trying different ceramic techniques to produce the kind of artistic china they crave.

In March, the first batch of their modern ceramics made in Jingdezhen, China's "Porcelain Capital," went on sale in Thomas Goode's store in Mayfair, London. Thomas Goode is described as Britain's finest purveyor of tableware.

It has been the dream of generations of ceramic makers in Jingdezhen to revive the town's past glory. A century ago, Jingdezhen porcelain was among the most sought after products in Europe.

"I often wondered why people would spend vast sums for a bowl. My thinking is that if arts and crafts can be made handy for daily use, safe enough for dinner and to put into dish washers, they are the things I want to present to customers," said Wang.

Without any background in art, Wang quit his job as a business analyst and came to Jingdezhen to set up his own ceramics studio in 2012. He became one of some 20,000 "jingpiao," a neologism for the floating population of Jingdezhen who are driven to the city by their love of fine china.

His partner Thompson was a risk analyst for Standard Chartered Bank. He also quit his job to join Wang in developing their brand, Spherebol.

Porcelain has been made in Jingdezhen for more than 1,000 years. In the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), it was not only home to the imperial kilns, but a center of the porcelain trade. It is estimated that over 100 million pieces of china were sold to Europe from the 16th to the 18th century.

However, as the world's population increased and along with it the demand for tableware, mass production took the luster from Jingdezhen's ceramic industry. These days, a ceramics studio may not sell a single vase in a whole week, but in the eyes of Wang and Thompson, it is still the place to realize their dreams.

Thompson and Wang may now consider themselves ceramicists, but they have lost none of their business acumen. Thompson calculated that if they had made the same investment in a business in Britain, Spain or France, it would not have survived a year.

Jingdezhen is well supplied with precisely the kind of low-cost resources and professional craft-workers required to make a fortune from quality china. Nowhere else could the inexperienced pair have groped in dark for four years to produce the kind of porcelain that meets their expectations.

Thompson is proud that Britain has produced so many famous luxury brands, like Rolls Royce, Liberty and Wedgewood. Although the manufacturing may not be controlled by British firms today, people still value the brands' British legacy.

He believes Jingdezhen can give his ceramics the necessary appeal to become a fully-fledged international brand.

The chief designer of Spherebol is local woman Luo Yan. She said her boss Wang wants to express his passion for European art in the ceramics. Luo Yan uses Chinese fine-brush painting and firing techniques to put her boss's love of European art into the glazes of their china.

Quality ceramics are not easy to make. The same design might need to be produced hundreds of times before the desired effect emerges. Even a minor difference in the firing temperature can have devastating effects on the color and quality of the product.

Wang plans to continue to target the luxury market in Europe before fully exploring the market in China. After all, it is the melding of elements from Chinese culture with contemporary European aesthetics that has been the source of his creativity.

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