||ISRAEL February- March 009
I was one of ten Canadian artists (www.ceramcanada.ca/canceram.html
invited to Fuping, China, to create new sculptural work for
the inaugural opening of the Canadian Museum. Situated within
a complex of International Ceramic Museums at Fuping, the
Canadian Museum is under the umbrella of the FULE organization
Fuping is just 70 kms north of Xi’an.
In a unique Art/Industrial exchange, the artists work for
a period of four weeks at the FUTO Tile and Brick Factory
compound in Fuping. Using local materials, the aim is to promote
world ceramics, build an important worldwide network of artists
as well as a collection of ceramics. The experience allows
the artists an exceptional opportunity to use local materials
and to respond to the rich cultural history of China.
and distinguished gentleman Chairman Mr. Xu Doufeng
and General Manager Mr. Fu Qiang and International
Director Mr. I Chi Hsu host the program. Their vision
and passion for ceramics is a “living one”
they say, “mingling arts residency with a Museum
collection and mingling old & new, East &
West, tradition & modern”.
me, the inimitable experience of working in a tile factory
in China evoked a “jump and the net will appear”
approach. I arrived in China with no tools but with an eagerness
to learn in a new situation and leave the methods of my Toronto
studio behind. Removed from the comforts of my studio and
the habitual approach to my work, I looked forward to the
stimulation of new surroundings.
Inspiration came in several
forms. I observed workers in the factory packing and wrapping
the finished tiles; in the streets, bicycle and truck deliveries
typically billowed with goods and produce, requiring ingenious
methods of fastening and binding; the sculptural rock forms
replicated in traditional Chinese gardens. Each influenced
and informed my senses, laying the foundation for the sculptural
works that I completed during my residency.
I built up my approach through these disparate influences
to explore the multiple layers of swirling dark stoneware
clay. I wrapped them in slip-soaked string, which burned
away during the firing, to leave a web-like effect.
I then used Tang dynasty glazes of amber and green in
order to contrast the dark stoneware, consequently using
traditional materials in a contemporary application.
The studio days were long, focused and absorbing. Interactions
with artists from France, Mexico and Germany, working towards
their own museum collections, enriched our experience. Day
trips to local villages and to see the famous Terra Cotta
Warriors and tombs in Xi’an enriched our comprehension
of China’s vast history and beauty.
In the spirit of Art and Industry, I worked on another
piece by drawing on the hand made Factory roof tiles.
I wanted to champion the individual person over the
speed of mass production. The curved shape of the
tile reminded me of a page in an open book so I decided
to depict the activities of the Factory workers using
black copper oxide as my “ink”. I worked
“in situ” on the white porcelain washed
factory tile “pages” and stacked the fifteen-minute
sketches to create a clay book. The piece is entitled
‘Factory Sketchbooks’. Sketching has always
been a personal activity for me and in this setting
they became a recorded public journal of the individual
hand skills I observed and so admired in the Factory.
At the end of the intensive 4 weeks on November 6th 2007
all 10 artists accomplished a body of work to be included
into the Canadian Museum collection. The Canadian Museum
is a part of the North American Museum building connecting
the U.S.A and Mexico Galleries. It was a celebration complete
with music, speeches, fireworks, local drummers and red
We were enriched as artists to
engage in the challenges of new materials, new language
and new facilities. Many thanks to the help of the
hard working factory workers, our wonderful team of
translators, International artists and our gracious
I would also like to make a very special Thank-you to Les
Manning, Artist & Director of the Medalta International
Artists in Residence program in Medicine Hat, Alberta who
selected our group from across Canada. Les spent his time
months before the trip corresponding on our behalf and took
great care to organize and encourage us all in China!
I would also like to give thanks and acknowledge the important
support of The Canada Council Travel Grant.
Other Links: artist Grace Nickel: www.gracenickel.ca