In September 2011, a group of Irish ceramic artists will travel to the Chinese town of Fuping, Shaanxi, to make the foundation collection for the newly built Irish Pavilion at the Fule International Ceramic Art Museum. The Irish Pavilion will showcase the best of the new wave of ceramic art emerging from Ireland, marrying the ancient techniques of the East to our own cultural traditions. It is a permanent exhibition space created to house the work of those ceramic artists whose subtlety, skill and vision captures the spirit of contemporary Ireland. Eleanor Flegg, writer, and Andrew Standen Raz, film maker and photographer, will travel with the group to document the residency. The Irish Pavilion opens on the 4th October 2011.
The blog is written by Eleanor Flegg, whose opinions may not necessarily reflect those of the group.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Unmapped territory

By this stage – day nine of the residency – issues of materials and equipment have been more or less resolved. There are five clays to chose from. Bricks and tiles, raw or ready-baked, have been gleaned from the factory. Slippery buckets of engobe are passed between the tables, now lined with biscuit-shaped clay samples. Half-formed objects are sweating under plastic wraps or drying under a strong light-bulb, prior to the trials of the kiln. The clays themselves are unknown quantities. Each will react to stress in its own particular way and any may crack under pressure. And, with the practicalities only partially under control, the makers face deeper dilemmas. Is it better to be careful – bending unfamiliar materials into familiar shapes – or to throw oneself into the creative unknown by making in entirely new way? There have been furrowed brows at the breakfast table... And China seems to have an endless supply of curved balls to throw at the makers. Frances, for example, is working on pieces that echo the patterns of local maps – both maps of County Louth from home, and maps of Fuping. So she asked our interpreters where she could buy a local map. They said yes, yes, yes and went away to find out. Then they came back and said no, it isn't possible. There are no local maps of Fuping, they said, the government doesn't allow it. 

Here there be dragons.

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