Turkish ceramics artist's fruitful life in changing porcelain capital
In China's porcelain capital, Jingdezhen City of east China's Jiangxi Province, many residents and taxi drivers are acquainted with Turkish ceramics artist Ekrem Yazici, who has lived in the city for over 10 years.
Having witnessed the tremendous changes that have taken place in Jingdezhen over the last decade, Ekrem now enjoys his fruitful life in the city.
Ten years on, Ekrem has obtained a master's degree in ceramics design from the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute, as well as precious experience in traditional ceramics workshops and friendships with craftspeople.
"I have almost taken every taxi and visited every corner of the city," said Ekrem, who described his life in Jingdezhen as perfect.
He recalled his first trip to Jingdezhen in 2009. There was only one flight linking Jingdezhen with Shanghai and he could only travel by car, which was difficult for a foreigner at the time.
"Now by high speed railway, I can travel wherever I want, which is really impressive," said Ekrem.
Ekrem's first trip to Jingdezhen lasted six days -- long enough for him to visit traditional workshops and modern universities. He made the decision to stay.
"Some people walked with porcelain, while others carried porcelain wares on their shoulders," he said. "This place was like a heaven for ceramics lovers."
In 2010, Ekrem moved to Jingdezhen, rented a house and a studio, and began his postgraduate studies.
"Even though you live in the capital of porcelain, it does not mean porcelain can claim 99 percent of your life," he said. "You cannot eat porcelain."
He said he always wants to eat something different and go out to have fun on weekends, or drink a little to relax himself, which was beyond his imagination years ago.
"Once, I could only drink baijiu (a Chinese liquor) in a friend's studio. Now I can drink coffee and wine, eat pizza and find anything I want and need here," said Ekrem.
Over the past 10 years, the city has undergone changes that have made it a totally different place -- larger and much cleaner, he added.
More restaurants, playgrounds and cinemas have emerged in the city, entertaining residents and visitors, he said.
In addition to lifestyle changes, a more profound change has taken place in the city's ceramics culture and industry.
Jingdezhen's history of ceramics dates back over 2,000 years. Its role as an official and royal kiln pushed its porcelain-making techniques to the highest level in history.
However, Jingdezhen faded from prominence alongside the end of China's dynasty age, until the city reshaped its image and turned the tide in recent decades.
"Jingdezhen's ceramics design was once very traditional. People were not concerned with porcelain, but regarded ceramics as daily necessities like tableware or furniture," Ekrem recalled.
Combining innovation with the conservation of tradition, Jingdezhen now attracts more and more visitors from both home and abroad.
Moreover, China's prosperity means people are more willing to spend money and time in Jingdezhen, which results in more designers paying attention to porcelain.
"They make fresh ideas happen in the city. Porcelain can be made in any color you want instead of traditional blue and white. As long as you have an idea about porcelain, you can realize it in Jingdezhen," said Ekrem.
Now, more and more ceramics from Jingdezhen are reappearing on shelves in other countries.
And alongside its economic development and expanded exports, Jingdezhen is gradually gaining international exposure for its products and culture, and is attracting more and more artists and tourists.
But Jingdezhen was once mysterious and unknown to many people in other countries, said Ekrem.
At a young age, he was impressed by Jingdezhen's exquisite porcelain wares exhibited in the Topkai Palace Museum, which was home to many Ottoman sultans in Istanbul.
However, when he searched this Chinese place online, he found some pictures but little news or information on the city.
He is now happy to know that an increasing number of books and documentaries about Jingdezhen are being issued, which will help more people understand the city.
"But if you want to know the city completely, you have to come here," he said.
Ekrem expressed his solid confidence in Jingdezhen and said he welcomed more people to visit the city, whether as ceramics lovers or tourists.