Finding Beauty in Imperfection

December 20, 2016 2016年12月20日

For many people in China, porcelain is a familiar part of life, commonly seen and used on a day-to-day basis. But paradoxically, porcelain can also be thought of as an unfamiliar material, in the sense that many people know next to nothing about it. Despite the nickname ciguo, which translates into “country of porcelain,” most people in China don’t fully understand the beautiful intricacies of ceramics and the meticulous creation process. Enter Chifengge, a Hangzhou-based pottery studio that specializes in wood-fired ceramic wares, working tirelessly to perfect this underappreciated craft. Founded by three young ceramics enthusiasts, the studio has been producing a varied assortment of earthenware since 2014—each creation uniquely different from the last.


我们对瓷器既熟悉又陌生,一方面从我们的生活器皿乃至国名,瓷器几乎遍布我们的日常;而另一方面,重视不同审美趣味的瓷器又似乎只受众于小部分人群。赤枫阁是由三个年轻人于2014年创办的一个柴烧工作室,这里没有千篇一律形色规整的器皿,每个作品都独一无二。

The studio is the brainchild of Yuan Cunze, Xu Chaoqi and Han Min, who all graduated from the China Academy of Art in 2013. Having graduated with a fine arts degree in ceramic design, the trio, like many of their peers, felt apprehensive about the future. Unlike other design-related majors, finding a stable career relevant to their field is considerably more difficult. Many of their fellow graduates chose to continue on to graduate school, switch career paths entirely, or pursue higher education overseas. After exploring their options over the course of a year, the three finally made the decision to start their own studio.


工作室由袁存泽,许超奇与韩敏发起,2013年毕业于中国美术学院的三个年轻人,像大多数纯艺专业毕业的人一样,对未来充满迷茫,他们所学习的工艺美术陶瓷设计并不像普通设计类专业那么容易找到对应工作,同系的朋友大多选择读研、转业或者出国深造,所以兜兜转转的下一年,工作室才成立起来。

The chifeng in their studio’s name means red maple in Chinese, a tree known for its vibrant red leaves during autumn, and alludes to Chifengge’s approach of using wood rather than commonly seen modern pottery firing methods. Nowadays, electric-powered kilns are preferred for their convenience and ease. But even in the past, using wood for the firing process wasn’t the norm; the inconsistent results from ashes and scorch marks were thought of as flaws. However, the recent resurgence of interest in wood-fired ceramics is revealing of society’s ever-changing taste and how the definition of beauty has broadened over time.


赤枫阁的名字源于对火焰痕迹的追求,这本身也对应了柴烧的特点。现代普遍使用电窑烧制瓷器,柴烧这种古老的烧制方法在古代正统瓷器烧制技术允许的情况下是不被欣赏的,并认为这是一种瑕疵,柴烧的兴起也恰恰证明了社会的发展,人们对美有了更广义的理解

The scorch marks and glazed ashes of wood-fired pottery are central to the creation process in modern times. Many different factors affect the outcome when using a wood-firing technique. The speed that wood is added during the process, weather conditions, and the kiln’s flow of air can all drastically affect how the creation turns out in the end. The final appearance of a wood-fired ceramic creation tells an unabashedly revealing story of the entire creation process, a story of its own birth laid out in plain view for all to see. Every scorch mark and layer of ash from the firing process adds unique characteristics to each piece of pottery and are considered as beautiful additions, rather than flaws.


现代柴烧注重火痕与落灰,顾名思义需要燃烧木材提供热能,加柴的速度和方式、天气的状况、空气的进流量等任何细微因素都会对烧制造成天差地别的影响,器物会忠实地记录它经历的所有考验,随意飘散经过的木灰造成的色彩变化与火焰行进的痕迹共同呈现出一种无法复制的美感。

Success stories of young people rolling up their sleeves and building something out of nothing are becoming more and more commonplace nowadays. But when I asked about how they planned to make money in the beginning, Han Min told me: “If we wanted to earn money, we would have used an electric kiln instead. Before we started this, we never thought about how to turn this into a business. The only thoughts that crossed our minds were on how can we make the best wood-fired pottery.” Coming from a design background myself, hearing such an earnest answer that focuses on creativity over profit, made me feel that much more hopeful about the future.


这种年轻人白手起家的故事我们似乎听的太多了,但当问及初期是否考虑销售问题时,韩敏说:“想赚钱的话,我们就直接去烧电窑了。我们在做这件事之前,完全没想过应该怎么去做生意,当时只考虑了怎么去烧制出最好的柴烧作品。”对于当下一个学服装的平面设计师来说,也许这是星星之火。

Dongjia: ~/chifengge
WeChat
: han15868835868

 

Contributor: Shou Xing
Images Courtesy of Chifengge


东家~/赤枫阁
微信
: han15868835868

 

供稿人: Shou Xing
图片由赤枫阁提供