"Everything in Jingdezhen is filthy except the people. How they achieve this is a miracle beyond me After a day on the factory earth floors the men and women emerge spotless, the women's high heels as clean as the day they came from the shop. I wander Jingdezhen in a cloud of white porcelain when it is dry ,or covered in mud when it rains- the proverbial dirty old man."
Journal of Australian Ceramics 48#2, pp11
This evocative quote is from Australian artist/cartoonist Roger Law who has been working with artisans in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen to make these amazing huge, carved celadon pots. Roger was one of the keynote speakers at the Australian Ceramics Triennale and his account of his journey from maker of satirical masks for "Spitting Image" in the 1980's to wandering around Jingdezhen in a cloud of porcelain dust was very funny.
Roger pointed out that as an artist it is very rare to be able to work with skilled artisans due to the expense but in China it is still possible. The results of such collaborations can be amazing. The emphasis these collaborations place on the handmade within a factory type setting is very valuable in this world of de-personalized objects. The fact is that all of our ceramics are still pretty much handmade, artisans working in factories in China make many of the ceramics we buy from chain-stores.
I must admit that the opportunity to decorate huge pots such as these would be one I'd relish but it is only possible because those workers expect so much less than their Western counterparts. Where does the boundary between collaboration, creativity and exploitation lie? Is it better to give lower paid workers employment than not to go over there at all?