Ann Brink on mon 23 oct 06
Hello Ric, I always enjoy reading your reports- it's a glimpse into
someone's life totally unlike my own - and kept just a snippet of your
letter to comment on:
----- Original Message -----
From: "Ric Swenson"
>. Always fun to play with clay and other materials to see what
> contrasts and compliments I can discover in this lifelong WINGS fetish I
> seem to have. Totemic and to do with my dreams of being able to fly. Too
> difficult to explain in so short a missal.
The paragraph above reminded me immediately of something I just finished
reading in Annie Dillard's "A Writer's Life":
"Why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you
advert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands?
Because it is up to you. There is something you find interesting, for a
reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it
on any page; there you begin. You were made and set here to give voice to
this, your own astonishment. 'The most demanding part of living a lifetime
as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadfastly
along the nerve of one's own most intimate sensetivity.' Anne Truitt, the
sculptor, said this."
I've been thinking and thinking about this idea ever since I read it. I
ruefully admit that instead of having a lifelong enchantment with one
particular subject I am more like a cat in a room full of mice...so many
things fascinate me. Am musing about the things I've made that have most
pleased me, finding the common thread, and following it to the next thing...
Ann Brink in Lompoc CA
(mostly about pottery)
Ric Swenson on mon 23 oct 06
Nei Hao from JingDeZhen, P.R. China. 10/24/2006
Two weeks since I wrote, so I should get to it now or I will fall behind in
my remembrances. I have far too many ¡°senior moments¡± now as it is.
Beijing Olympics in about 650 days. According to what I see on CCTV 9 ( our
English-Chinese station) Beijing is trying to clean up it¡¯s act before
August, 2008. Air pollution and getting people to stop spitting on the
floor and in the streets seem to be having some good effects there. Time
will tell. There are a lot of people there and if there traffic is anything
like Atlanta¡¯s¡.well enough said. I look forward to seeing the swimming as
usual. All those years (50+) as a swimmer and coach and official on deck at
local Vermont and New England and a few National qualifiers makes me really
look forward to seeing what the latest crop of young athletes can do in the
I have finished with most of my dental work, at the local hospital dental
offices. The cost of two root canals and two crowns equals about $220. USD.
Next work might include a bridge for a couple missing teeth. The estimate is
$300. The quality seems excellent and of course the cost is MUCH lower than
I could expect to pay in Atlanta, even with insurance kicked in. Having a
couple porcelain teeth from JingDeZhen seems appropriate for a potter don¡¯t
It was great to see Rick Mahaffey here in China. He brought a large group
(50?) from all over the world, that traveled pretty extensively around the
country and spent a few days in JingDeZhen at the 2006 International
Ceramics Symposium and Exhibition. He still has that huge moustache that I
remember from our days at University of Puget Sound back in 1975-6. We were
two of F.Carlton Ball¡¯s last crop of grad. students there, and also enjoyed
the teaching of Fred Olsen, Ken Stevens and John Barnett.
Rick teaches at Tacoma Comm. College, as he has for 30 years.
The JingDeZhen Ceramic Symposium and Exhibition had booths from many local
potteries and also the likes of Wedgewood, Noritake, et al, were there too.
All types of ceramics were shown, from tiles to tablewares, from cutlery to
electronics¡. to toilets (¡®too lates¡¯)
Mahaffey and I and a dozen other potters/artists had a nice supper at a
large Sichwan Hot Pot Restaurant here in town. There were several Tacoma
folks and some UK potters along that night as well. Noel O¡¯Connell
(Wisconsin) of MEI DESIGNS here in JDZ and Donna Causland and her son Neil
McCoun from Colorado attended and also went with us for the late night foot
massage which is a tradition for potters here. ¡®A good time was had by
all¡¯, as the saying goes.
The fourteen Norwegian students who were here for a month have now gone back
to Bergen and environs. The dorm is now a little more quiet, but the 10 West
Virginia U. and a dozen young Korean students liven up the place up
periodically. Lots of foreign programs available here. Alfred U. has a
program, but haven¡¯t seem many students here this term from Alfred. The new
studios equipped by WVU and JCI (JingDeZhen Ceramic Institute) are quite
nice and the new kiln apparently produced some excellent results. I am so
busy teaching I have not yet gone to see the exhibition of their works, but
have heard it is quite nice.
Last weekend, with so many visiting potters ( a hundred or more from the
States?) it was nice to see the Pottery Workshop had a raku demo and a
¡°paper clay kiln¡± building party and fired the thing during an exhibition
opening of the last year¡¯s resident artists works. 20 potters/ artists
represented in the exhibition. Staff show at Pottery Workshop and The
Sculpture Factory also drew a good crowd.
Maybe the best part of the week was attending the VASE PROJECT exhibition at
the main exhibition hall of the Great China Museum. Barbara Diduk of
Dickinson College and Joey Tsao, recent grad of the sculpture program here
at JCI, spent the last two years putting together a most interesting
project. A photo was shown to a painter of blue and white porcelain here in
JDZ. It was a photo of the landscape of JingDeZhen a few years ago when
there were over 600 wood fired kilns in town and smokestacks clouded the
skies here. The artist was given a porcelain vase (about 15-16 inches tall I
would guess) and the artist was invited to paint in the traditional cobalt
blue, a scene like they saw in the photo. After this piece was fired,
another artist was invited to look at the first finished vase (but not at
the photo) and do their interpretation of the landscape. This process was
repeated with 100 other artists, each only seeing the single previous piece.
The order in which they were done was documented carefully. It is quite a
striking exhibition and I understand it will travel the world, so keep your
eyes peeled for the exhibition and some write ups in the mags too. The
poster is a real collector¡¯s item, IMHO.
Teaching at four campuses keep me hopping but I always seem to have time to
work on my own work too. My exhibition will open on November 4th at 7 PM at
The Pottery Workshop Gallery. I have enlisted some friends to join me in
creating wings from ¡°other than clay¡± materials, for some of my porcelain
vessel shapes. I have created some silk, pine, palm frond, chopsticks,
bamboo and steel wings thus far. I have several more to work on in the next
two weeks. Always fun to play with clay and other materials to see what
contrasts and compliments I can discover in this lifelong WINGS fetish I
seem to have. Totemic and to do with my dreams of being able to fly. Too
difficult to explain in so short a missal.
Weather here is pleasant and getting downright comfortable as Fall
progresses. I bought a second blanket in anticipation of the colder weather
to come. The cicada¡¯s song is infrequent now. Their buzzing has all but
Rain dampens the campus some days, but generally dry here. The students are
busy with their studies and I continue to teach ceramics course at Gao Zhuan
near the Ancient Kiln Museum and oral English at several local campuses. The
most fun being a few Kindergarten classes at Tian Tian Le.
Students for the most part are very serious about their studies here. They
realize there is tremendous competition for jobs and don¡¯t want to end up
digging ditches or working at Mickey Ds. Their parents instill in them a
sense of the urgency to study hard and succeed. Most of their parents
suffered through the cultural revolution and realize how lucky their
children really are now-a-days here in China.
Time to prepare for class now.
Remember to ¡°keep your stick on the ice¡±
"...then fiery expedition be my wing, ..."
Wm. Shakespeare, RICHARD III, Act IV Scene III
Richard H. ("Ric") Swenson, Teacher,
Office of International Cooperation and Exchange of Jingdezhen Ceramic
Institute, TaoYang Road, Eastern Suburb, Jingdezhen City
JiangXi Province, P.R. of China.
Postal code 333001.
Mobile/cellular phone :13767818872
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