Archive | June, 2011

The 3rd ICMEA (International Ceramics Magazine Editor’s Association) Symposium: The Fuping Pottery Art Village, Shaanxi Province, China 8 – 12th of November 2010

10 Jun

Last year in November I was invited to attend the 3rd ICMEA symposium in China, because my ceramic sculpture Shelf Life was selected for permanent display in the ICMEA gallery at The Fuping Pottery Arts Village, Shaanxi Province. My article about the symposium has just been published in the Ceramics Ireland Magazine, Issue 27, pp. 10 -13. You can purchase a copy or subscribe to the magazine by visiting

For those of you who prefer online reading, I have added the article to the following blog post.

The Fuping Pottery Art Village, Shaanxi Province, China.

The Fuping Pottery Art Village in Shaanxi Province, China, hosted the third International Ceramics Magazine Editors Association Symposium 8– 12th of November 2010. The triennial event was attended by ceramic artists, magazine editors and academics, and coordinated by the Fuping Pottery Art Village Director I-Chi Hsu and members of ICMEA, including the former Head Chair Janet Mansfield. The symposium provided an opportunity to present research papers and exhibit new ceramic art. In the opening ceremony speeches, the host I-Chi Hsu shared his vision of the symposium: a platform to build the reputation of Fuping as a world centre for ceramics and to stimulate interest in the history and contemporary production of ceramic art in China and abroad. Approximately one hundred participants attended exhibition openings, folk art shows and performances, fireworks and many excursions to significant cultural ceramics sites during the symposium.

On the first day, a large group of visiting Eastern European artists exhibited work that was made during a residency at the Fuping Pottery Workshop to celebrate the opening of the new dome shaped FLICAM Ceramic Museum. The Third ICMEA International Emerging Artists Competition Exhibition opened later in the day and showcased sixty -nine ceramic artworks that explored functional, sculptural and conceptual approaches to the medium. All of the selected pieces are now part of the permanent collection of the Fuping ICMEA gallery, including my ceramic sculpture Shelf Life. Shelf Life playfully explores questions of object identity and is a one out of six compositions made from porcelain and glaze. I was proud to see that all five Australian artists chosen for the show had made the effort to travel to China, including two recent RMIT graduates, Andrei Davidoff and Kellie Barnes. Andrei presented Denkyu Forest, an arrangement in which trees are substituted for porcelain, fluorescent light tubes and wires, whilst Kellie’s delicately cast glazed porcelain objects resembled components of architectural structures. The competition winners were announced in the evening: Gold prize (US2000) Sinead Glynn, Silver Prize (US1500) Gabriele Gisi, and Bronze Prize (US1000) Martin Grade. The night wrapped up with a spectacular display of Chinese fireworks.

Kim Goldsmith, Shelf Life (1/6), Southern Ice Porcelain and glaze, 60x40x20cm, 2007. Permanent collection of the Fuping Pottery Village ICMEA gallery, China.

During the three-day conference, twenty-one papers were presented covering a range of topics. After many discussions fuelled by the topic of the day or Sedrine beer (helping to “release our true emotions” according to the label) it was evident that recent activity within the International ceramics community has moved beyond the tedious art vs. craft debates, or the obsession with the Hamada – Leach ceramic philosophy. Instead, the speakers focused on the global-local position of ceramics and the necessity of critical discourse. Magazine editors debated the importance of critical peer reviewed articles and digital versions of journals to connect with young artists and academics. Strategies for the expansion and survival of ceramics magazines included revising target markets to engage a broader public readership by collaborating with recognised authors (such as Salman Rushdie or journalists from the New Yorker) and paying writers for their submissions. The adoption of digital technologies (Rhino, AutoCAD and clay printers) and offering ceramics residencies to artists from other disciplines were suggested by the European Ceramic Work Centre as alternative means to revitalise the general image and appeal of ceramics. The same fears that the “pure art” of hand-crafted ceramics will be destroyed by the hybrid, digital, global and interdisciplinary tastes of the art world continue to linger. Yet, whatever these new permutations may be, most of the artists at the conference seemed keen to embrace and support fresh technologies and modes of promotion if they sustain the future of ceramics practice.

Andrei Davidoff, Denkyu Forest, porcelain and florescent lights, dimensions vary. Permanent collection The Fuping Pottery Art Village ICMEA gallery.

After the topical debates of day two were over, we visited the X’ian terracotta warriors at the original pit where a local farmer found over six thousand statues in the 1970’s. At the gift shop the actual farmer sat at a table signing exhibition catalogues for ten Yuan. That was rather unexpected, but I imagine that it was a profitable occupation since his farmland had been taken over as a tourist attraction. Ceramic conservators had painstakingly restored each broken figure, a feat almost more impressive than their original construction. The conservators remain at the site and can be witnessed remodelling the figures, or watching Youku, the Chinese equivalent of You tube, on their laptops! Outside of the pit, there were many small stalls where the locals sold images of Mao Zedong, Warrior figurines, or “bear skin” rugs that were in fact made from dog fur.

On the fourth day we ventured three hours by bus from Fuping to the mountain top pottery village Chen Lu. Along the way, we saw many low lying unfinished brick houses. Corn cobs were strung up on each house, and kernels spread on the ground to dry, ready to be pummelled into flour used to make special noodles. The village was a string of small potteries that made their wares for export or local sale atop the peak of a series of mountains tiered with green rice paddies. Visibility was minimal because of the combination of the smoke emanating from the wood stoked kilns and the thick smog and dust in the atmosphere due to heavy urban and industrial development in the region. The small studios contained rows of slip-cast porcelain jugs, tea sets, ornate wine cups and vases decorated with celadon or black glazes, carved patterns, and elaborate tiger and dragon sprigging. Most of the town was built from discarded terracotta: roof tiles were used for pavement,

Kellie Barnes, Untitled, porcelain and glaze, dimensions vary. Permanent collection of The Fuping Pottery Art Village, China.

pots stacked to make walls and glazed teapots marked the studio entrances.

The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen was established in the early 1980s and since this time, more studios in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing have emerged. Artists, designers and manufacturers can apply for a residency and pay a fee that covers accommodation, food and studio space. The workshop is surrounded by small studios that specifically focus on one or two aspects of ceramic practice, such as mould making or glazing. Resident artists treat these workshops as an extension of their studio, and may employ local craftspeople to replicate their own designs in small editions, learn a specific skill such as overglaze decoration or engraving, or fire batches of their work.  In the courtyard below the studios, there is a regular craft market where students from the local ceramic college have an opportunity to sell their wares to visitors.  The workshop has an education centre for children and adults to learn basic ceramic skills, and where the conference artists returned to present lectures and images of their work in the evening.

During the day, we drove to the Big Piece Ceramic Factory in the mountains outside of the town centre. The factory produces giant vases and bowls that are exported and purchased as decoration for homes and hotel lobbies. The vases were hand built and moulded in sections and then decorated by hand with traditional Chinese patterns and characters. Some of the pieces were three times the size of an adult. The last visit was to the Sambao Mountain Ceramic Studio where we met Jackson Lee, the American educated Chinese ceramicist who is the director of this studio. The studio is secluded and restful, nestled in mountain forests that overlook a small stream and low vegetable patches, offering Chinese or International ceramicists a tranquil space away from the city to create new work. Here we talked to the resident artists and enjoyed yet another delicious round table meal in the restaurant, which is a popular attraction for locals. After our stay in Jingdhezen the group split in two, some stopped over in Shanghai before their flight home, whilst the rest took a bus to Longquan for the Celadon Festival to visit the museum, ancient kilns, work factories and master studios.

Large ceramics factory, Jingdhezen

The third ICMEA Symposium was an intensely engaging and educational experience. We witnessed the role of Chinese ceramics as both an artefact of ancient history and a material applied to the modern and industrial development of new cities. It is clear that in China the biggest potential market for ceramic designs is within the built environment. However, as the country expands, so too does the interest in innovative ceramic art. ICMEA gave the group a rare opportunity to access studios and potteries local to China, and a chance to share our own perspectives, ideas and passion for clay with other International artists, editors and academics.

Chen Lu Ancient Pottery Village, China.

About the author

Kim Goldsmith completed a Master of Visual Arts, specialising in Ceramics, at the Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney, Australia in 2007. Since this time she has travelled to Egypt, Germany, Morocco, and China to present conference papers, and exhibit ceramics and paintings for International Symposiums. Currently, she is employed as an Art and Design Teaching Fellow, Bachelor of Architecture Program in the Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies at The University of Nottingham, Ningbo Campus, China. Her research and arts practice is focused on theories of object identity, material culture, craft theory, and the psychological/emotional experiences of architectural space.