Gathering What’s Needed: 400,000 Potential Collaborators

I didn’t mean to come to Jingdezhen. After I finished grad school, the only thing I felt I knew was that I couldn’t afford to practice in the United States. I sold my car, a 1972 MGB GT, and went to Europe. I proceeded to live cheaply and start the hunt for a place where studio art as a vocation seemed more feasible. All I found, however, was that I was about two decades late for Berlin and seemingly two decades early for Tbilisi.

I ran out of money after nine months and flew home to Pennsylvania. A friend from college was in residence at the Clay Studio in Philadelphia at the time; she connected me with an apartment and a seasonal job making slab-built cups and mixing clay for a furniture maker based in the city. At the time, I was already thinking of the next step in my search for a suitable place to settle down. Two months later, she connected me again with a chance to join her at a residency in Zhejiang, China. When our time was up there, we visited another friend who was teaching at a university in Beijing, but his class at that point was on their yearly two-month excursion to Jingdezhen.

I didn’t mean to come here; I "knew" about Jingdezhen, of course, about blue and white pots and porcelain, but I’ve never been a person in love with clay in THAT way. I fall into the "clay is a material" camp of ceramic artists and thought that Jingdezhen was a place for people more in the "clay is life from the earth" wing. I was wrong, and coming here was the best thing I’ve ever meant not to do.