'As white as a jade, as bright as a mirror' - Eight weeks in China’s Porcelain Capital

Established ceramicist Prue Venables travelled to Jingdezhen, China, to research high risk pottery techniques, and create a new body of work.

Known as the ‘Porcelain Capital’, Jingdezhen’s ceramics are widely known to be ‘as thin as paper, as white as jade, as bright as a mirror, and as sound as a bell.’  

Making fine work since the Eastern Han Dynasty 1700 years ago, the city has been famous internationally for its blue and white porcelain since the 14th century.

Today, Jingdezhen remains a national center for porcelain production.Ceramicists from around the world travel to Jingdezhen to learn from its traditions at dedicated residency centres such as The Pottery Workshop and the Sanbao Ceramic Art Institute.

Last year, Victorian based ceramic artist Prue Venables travelled to The Pottery Workshop to conduct eight weeks of research and professional development through the Asialink Arts Residency Program.

Prue Venables’ current work is highly experimental and fired at high temperatures of around 1400 degrees centigrade. The results are beautiful, translucent and luminous, but have an extremely high failure rate. During her residency, Venables wished to address these issues under the expert tutelage of Jingdezhen artisans.

Pair of tea strainers by Prue Venables. Limoges porcelain, cast, pierced, reduction fired, clear glaze.

An exhibiting ceramicist with 35 years experience, Prue Venables explains that “The Workshop has a significant reputation for international research. Thousands of years of history in the use of porcelain underpins the knowledge and experience of local artisans.”

The organisation is surrounded by hundreds of small, independent craftspeople and studios. Resident ceramicists are encouraged to interact and integrate with the skilled local community.

A local artisan transporting works in Jingdezhen

While at the workshop, Venables gave a talk and demonstration, in between intensive research and experimentation. With the support of the staff from The Pottery Workshop and Jingdezhen artisans, Venables explored new techniques using the remarkable translucent porcelain available in the area.The residency provided new technical understanding of firing processes and ancient glazing techniques, allowing her to produce a remarkable 80 new objects.

Work by Prue Venables prior to firing.

One of her pieces was included in the finals of the Officine Saffi International Ceramics Competition in Milan in early 2017, confirming the high technical and artistic quality of the porcelain she produced on residency.

Work completed on residency by Prue Venables.

While in China Venables was also filmed as part of a new documentary. The film will chart porcelains' historical development in China and spread across Europe while also featuring contemporary and traditional artistry in the field. Reflecting on the importance of Jingdezhen's remarkable ceramics community, Venables explains that

“Jingdezhen is the place where porcelain was first developed and it is a remarkable place, steeped in history with numerous opportunities to observe the results of centuries of technological and artistic development.”

Prue Venables' relationship with Jingdezhen will continue to evolve when she returns in 2017 to teach classes at The Pottery Workshop.

Work that Venables created while on residency is currently being exhibited in Australia at Beaver Galleries in Canberra between 27 April - 14 May 2017.

Prue Venables' 2016 residency to China was supported by Creative Victoria.

More Information

Jessica O'Brien

+61 3 83442737