An old sketch design from 2009, originally the pattern and (not show here) logo were not intended for porcelain but alas, it has found its way to this wall concept; and many a sketchbook and random sheet of paper.
In a porcelain studio, it's almost expected to see the influence of blue and white somewhere. Universally recognized, this signature glaze palette originated in China. This is a medium whose symbolism has grown to contradict itself; strength and fragility, preciousness and mass production. Porcelain, especially blue and white, has always extended beyond functional objects and into the realm of art. Contemporary artists find new ways to speak through traditional blue and white porcelain, reminding us that this craft is much more than a commodity. I wanted to share the work of two artists who inspire us - pulling quotes from their interviews and artist statements. A link to their respective website of work are highlighted in hopes you will also fall in love with their works as much as we have.
This work of Steven Young Lee shown above, is taking the traditional blue and white porcelain, and imploding it.
“Ceramic production has long been influenced by an industrial standard of perfection and I commit myself to the integrity and craftsmanship of form and decoration in each piece. Deconstructing and imploding the forms creates a visceral reaction that defies the human desire for perfection and confronts the perception of value. It is in this act that I hope to challenge and redefine what is beautiful.” [stevenyounglee.com]
Throwing away a perfectionist mentality, his fragmented slumped vases and jars are glazed inside and out, transforming the familiar form into a sculpture rather than a vessel. Allowing it to naturally move, and succumb to gravitational pulls.
“That’s part of what’s interesting to me: Trying to use the material in a way that most people in ceramics are trying to avoid.”
So much of what speaks to us in Steven Young Lee's work (and this is how we always say his name, much like... RBG, you don't just call him by his Surname. It's SYL or you need to go back and look at his work and fall in love properly... !
The areas Steven Young Lee explores with porcelain and the visual commentary, resonates with Kimberly and me --- as we also have a lot of design influence from her biracial heritage background and desire to make points about color play and shape with/out perception to cultural influences. Steven Young Lee said this on describing some of his works:
“My work allows me to re-interpret and confront questions of place and belonging. Having begun my artistic career learning Asian pottery techniques in a Western education system, I am also continually investigating the sources and ownership of cultural influence. The objects I create collect elements of form, decoration, color and material from various cultures while questioning failure, expectation and intent. They offer a collision of influences from various origins–Chinese, Korean, French, Dutch, English, Minoan, etc. reflecting my passion for historical ceramics and insights on the past.”
[Kimberly here:] It is a satisfying sigh to see his work in person. I had the absolute serendipity to be in DC one year and decided to wander into the Renwick Gallery, and was confronted by the most jaw-dropping, oh-my-goodness installation of work. You know when folks say #blessed, and you internally roll your eyes? Well, I suddenly understood why anyone would viscerally feel such a hashtag emotion. That was one of the best accidents of my traveling life. I had heard of SYL's work through ceramic magazines, as well as probably Instagram. But to unknowingly walk into one of the Smithsonian Galleries and see a collection of his in the porcelain, was just... heart-drop to the floor, love-sick aching heart for such amazing ownership and interpretation of a "style" that has for so long been perpetuated through a trade-filled lens. Furthermore, he was paired in the gallery with Jennifer Trask and she was showing in her collection this baroque-like gold and white vision of exploring nature and bone. The combination of seeing these two artists together was such a visual tasting for the mind. Please allow yourself a long and drawn out, "Swoooon." Also, please explore Steven Young Lee's works, there is just so much more than words can say sometimes. [Back to Genevieve.]
Truth Before Flowers, 2019
Jennifer Ling Datchuk is the descendant of Chinese, Russian, and Irish immigrants. She captures her family histories of conflict by exploring the emotive power of domestic objects and rituals that fix, beautify and soothe.
“I often think of the label “Made in China” and how it's associated with objects that are cheaply and poorly made. What makes their labor and bodies any less than that of American labor? We need to acknowledge and confront the capitalist systems in place that have created an American ruling class that for decades have put profits over people and continually exploit global inequality.”
“Truth Before Flowers,” her work pictured above, is this emotive juxtaposition of -- "disentangling histories and traumas to find empowerment through objects of womanhood." There is so much to relay in her work, but to allow yourself to explore her work and soak it in, please follow over here to her website.
"Porcelain objects inspired by the history of teacups and dinnerware allows me to speak in dualities, especially of fragility and resilience and ultimately the struggle between diversity and the flawless white body.... I want to deconstruct established hierarchies of materials and champion the handmade. There is a lot of shame and isolation in our stories and I am frustrated that we have not overcome more as women. Through pain and perfection, these objects amplify female voices, reconstruct our identities, and celebrate our truths." [jenniferlingdatchuk.com]
“I thought about how as an Asian woman I have to grit my teeth, play nice, and never show face. I grit my teeth and flare my lips to express my frustration that we have not overcome more as women. I wanted to show that porcelain, like women, is often perceived as fragile and delicate but it is strong and resilient.” [jenniferlingdatchuk.com in describing her porcelain grill work]
Porcelain is a material capable of telling stories of its own. Enriched by its own long history. This centuries old craft continues to evolve through new narratives as new work, which challenges the concepts of perfection and identity moves porcelain through human history once again.
Blue and white imagery makes a tiny appearance in our heritage studs. Tiny floral blue and white porcelain cabochons are mounted on 14k gold-filled hardware, gentle for those with sensitive skin. A subtle statement, these studs are a nod to the history of blue and white that you can wear every day. Even explored as a wash of blue in our textural tea flower studs. All of this is to say, it forces me to think, will these works be unearthed in thousands of years by someone else, to tell stories between now and then another time around?
Artists featured and obsessively loved: