A Versatile Artisan's Journey: Hong Jianpeng in Dehua

A Versatile Artisan's Journey: Hong Jianpeng in Dehua


Talking with Hong Jianpeng and listening to his stories is an interesting experience. His stories are always full of twists and turns, opening up a broad world of ceramics around the corner.

A Versatile Artisan Staying in Dehua

Born in 1986 in Zhangzhou, Hong Jianpeng left school at 15 and never looked back. He worked various jobs, including welding, digging cable trenches, and canning, before learning traditional wood carving in his hometown for two years. An unexpected visit to Dehua exposed him to the world of ceramics, which captivated him with its beauty. The allure of Dehua porcelain kept him there. In 2008, Hong approached Japanese artist Katsumizu working in Dehua, seeking to learn pottery. Despite initial reluctance, Katsumizu accepted him without pay. Hong studied under him for over a year.


After a failed factory venture, Hong returned to Dehua in 2013, establishing Yao Kiln Art Studio with his wife, focusing on Jian ware. They worked 15-hour days, eventually paying off debts. Hong’s determination grew: “Why can others stay in Dehua, but not me?” He resolved to become a “Dehua artist migrant,” aiming to find a unique, non-competitive niche.


Reflecting on his skills, Hong realized he was a versatile artisan with experience in mural painting, calligraphy, pottery, wood carving, and sculpture. Combining these skills, he decided to merge wood carving techniques with ceramics.


In late 2015, Hong founded "Dingshui Studio," delving into high-end Dehua white porcelain and integrating wood carving techniques into his ceramic creations.


The Addition and Subtraction of a Leisurely Player

Combining wood carving and ceramics creates a unique relief effect on porcelain, presenting a fantastical landscape in Dehua’s translucent white quality. While wood carving involves subtracting material, porcelain carving combines addition and subtraction, especially in head sculpting. Mastering Dehua’s fine kaolin requires meticulous craftsmanship due to its delicate nature.


Hong uses pottery techniques to control porcelain thickness, choosing designs based on this. He drafts preliminary sketches before carving with specialized tools. Porcelain clay is fragile, requiring confident, precise strokes as mistakes are irreparable. Hong trains his apprentices in drawing before carving, emphasizing the importance of good draftsmanship.


Among his popular handmade works are "The Four Heavenly Kings," "Peony Cup," and "Mountain Stream Serenity." About 60% of his pieces are custom orders, with personal cups being in high demand. The remaining 40% are personal projects.


Despite his busy schedule, Hong ensures time for leisure, saying, “I know how to make what customers like, set the right prices, and meet deadlines. But I always have time for fun.” His hobbies include calligraphy, painting, reading, sculpture, and stamp carving, often exploring new skills.


The Scholarly Touch

Hong’s interests extend to antiques, particularly Dehua ceramics from the Ming dynasty. He admires the elegance of Ming literati cups, inscribed with beautiful poetry and calligraphy. He creates similar cups, inscribing his own poetry, blending imagery and verse.


Hong’s deep love for Dehua ceramics drives his desire to bring this art into everyday life rather than keeping it confined to museums. He emphasizes the cultural significance of ceramic art, using historical figures like Guan Yu to illustrate his point.


Preferring the company of learned individuals, Hong believes in the value of extensive reading. He remarks that mediocrity is like a stain on a white shirt—irremovable once tainted. He advocates for more reading and less drinking, seeing books as stepping stones on the path of art.


As the tea session concludes, Hong’s stories leave a lasting impression. Borrowing his words, we conclude: “We have witnessed the world’s harshness, yet also discovered its potential for tenderness and beauty.”

Talking with Hong Jianpeng and listening to his stories is an interesting experience. His stories are always full of twists and turns, opening up a broad world of ceramics around the corner.


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