blue wall

Hong Kong’s pierced concrete patterns merge with surface designs from 1970s’ tableware in many of the pieces I made whilst living there – not always an easy fit. Now I live in Beijing and vintage elements can be spotted around the city.

Denby jug and linocuts
Denby jug linocuts

 

Here’s a favourite Hong Kong building – a church in Garden Road – quite hard to photograph  on a busy uphill dual carriageway.

According to Jonathan Adler, “the reckless disregard for convention…is completely liberating…When I’m feeling restricted by pottery dogma…I think of the organic, rule-breaking forms…and I feel inspired.”

Garden Road church
Garden Road church

Some baby blue concrete in Beijing.

this is the garden wall of the embassy of Somalia here in Beijing's diplomatic quarter
this is the garden wall of the embassy of Somalia here in Beijing’s diplomatic quarter

 

Cylindrical earthenware vessel with pierced holes, scraffito, stencilled coloured slip and copper and cobalt oxide.

scraffito, pierced holes
scraffito, pierced holes

Beijing street cat, this one’s pretty cool!

cat eyes

 

 

cat in the sunshine

there are so many great vintage pieces of design to inspire – ceramics, textiles, crafts – I guess it’s a subliminal nostalgia thing – I’m drawn to explore the retro theme, to respond with my own work and experiment with juxtapositions that reflect the changing nature of contemporary life and new opportunities and influences…

this Lisa Larsson cat has travelled from Glasgow to Hong Kong to Beijing along with the Hornsea plant pot
this Lisa Larson cat has travelled from Glasgow to Hong Kong to Beijing along with the Hornsea plant pot
the Japanese love Scandinavian vintage design and they publish tons of books and magazines on the subject
the Japanese love Scandinavian vintage design and they publish a plethora of books and magazines on the subject many featuring enticing looking shops as if we need another reason to visit this fabulous country
every cat enjoys a sunny spot
every cat enjoys a sunny spot, our local coffee shop cat is no exception – it is a friendly and possibly slightly unhygeinic accompaniment to the amazing New York style cheesecake they bake on the premises

 

 

ceramic patterns

With plans for studio Beijing, in the year of the goat, to be up and running soon I’m looking over images of some formative pieces as inspiration for the future and a reminder if what’s already been achieved…

sushi plate with fish
sushi plate with fish for Ubi gallery, Beijing
G.O.D. selection
G.O.D. selection

G.O.D. video 

more from G.O.D. commission
more from G.O.D. commission

Ubi_Invite_RachelSmith

 

Florette website

florette 5

florette 3

A very early work from my GSA degree show reappears in Florette's beautiful garden
A very early work from my GSA degree show reappears in Florette’s beautiful garden
bird tiles waiting for some legs to make a coffee table, vintage style circa 1960s
bird tiles waiting for some legs to make a coffee table, vintage style circa 1960s
tiles mono-printed with Hong Kong pigeons and gate detail
tiles mono-printed with Hong Kong pigeons and gate detail
JCCAC 5th anniversary exhibition - note to self - always put work on a plinth - someone walked backwards into these whilst taking a photo and smashed them like skittles !
FIVE – JCCAC 5th anniversary exhibition, December 2013 – note to self – always place work on a plinth – someone walked backwards into these whilst taking a photo and smashed them like skittles !
fracturing the concrete rhizome - Unit Gallery , September 2012
fracturing the concrete rhizome – Unit Gallery , September 2012, I have many macrame plant pot holders waiting patiently for plants in pots to bring them to life…
mono-print plant pots
mono-print plant pots

 

 

 

beijing spring

There’s a tangible sense of excitement in the air here. The skies are clear and the pollution is absent, for the time being at least.

Slide1

clear evening sky  may not last long unfortunately
clear evening sky may not last for long

 

New Year’s Eve in China

Fireworks exploding in the street  – misrule is the order of the night – lit by cigarette. Loud bangs definitely more important than visual display. Fire engines and street cleaners kept constantly busy. The local security guards all posed with fire extinguishers for a photo-op at the start of the night as we live within a historically important – and mostly built of wood – location.

one of the security guards observes fireworks across the road from our apartment on the street
security guard observes fireworks across the road from our apartment
street fireworks
street fireworks
fireworks in the hutongs
fireworks in the hutongs
hutong rocket
hutong rocket

 

 

 

Snow fell and settled briefly, a rare sight in Beijing and evaporated quickly, no lingering ice on the roads, thankfully.

cycling in the snow
cycling in the snow, hard to spot, you need to squint a little
snowy landscape seen from the airport express
snowy landscape seen from the train
lamma temple flags - the few million people left in Beijing congregated here on New Year's Day
lamma temple flags – the few million people left in Beijing congregated here on New Year’s Day

more flags

 

 

 

 

street crochet outside or apartment
street crochet outside our apartment

 

 

As if being on the back of a bicycle in Beijing wasn’t quite hazardous enough, it seems that children sleeping on the way home from school are taking things to a new level, although the traffic is slow and the road surfaces are smooth you really need to have your wits about you as there are no traffic rules here when it comes to cycle lanes.

sleeping child balanced on the trip home from school
sleeping child balanced on the trip home from school

The Spring Festival ends with the full moon and of course another full night of fireworks!

a glimpse of the full moon that rounds off the spring festival
a glimpse of the full moon that rounds off the spring festival

 

And finally some more lanterns…

NY lanterns

 

 

 

 

 

 

jingdezhen

The following images are from my visit to the world famous porcelain city in July 2014. Just a short flight away from Shenzhen, we had a great time and saw so much that it’s hard to pick just a few pics that give a small taste of what we saw. Jingdezhen is a truly amazing place that embodies living history not just for China but for the whole planet as ceramics is one of the oldest human activities and there’s a real sense of this in the town. China was obviously way ahead of the curve making ceramics on an industrial scale. I recommend the trip for anyone interested in the making process, not forgetting Britain’s own industrial heritage at Stoke on Trent.

At the ancient kiln museum all the workers are [sorry!] ancient. Here is a carving demonstration, this pot has not been fired so this is a very skilled job, hence the age perhaps.
At the ancient kiln museum all the workers are [sorry!] ancient. Here is a carving demonstration, this pot has not been fired so this is a very skilled job, hence the age perhaps.
Yes it's translucent.
Yes it’s translucent.
more intricate carving on a dry infired clay body, this can take months so not making  amistake is quite important
more intricate carving on a dry unfired clay body, this can take months so not making a mistake is quite important
J6
mass production Jingdezhen style

 

Applying decals to bowls
Applying decals to bowls
moving pots [yes unfired] by manual labour
moving pots [yes unfired] by manual labour
more pots on the move
more pots on the move
having tea with the artist
having tea with the artist
making tiles, cigarette essential
making tiles, cigarette essential
the tile maker's studio
the tile maker’s studio
making giant pots, connecting sections requires a team of workers [usually topless men with cigarettes]
making giant pots, connecting sections requires a team of workers [usually topless men with cigarettes]
another giant pot
another giant pot
performers preparing to demonstrate the porcelain orchestra
performers preparing to demonstrate the porcelain orchestra
in the YHA computers speak a universal  language
in the YHA computers speak a universal language
saggars as plant holders
saggars as plant holders
the brush shop owner and inspector of brushes, another revered expert
the brush shop owner and inspector of brushes, another revered expert
the "antiques" market, best to get there at 4am if at all possible, we made it at 7
the “antiques” market, best to get there at 4am if at all possible, we made it at 7
a view of the hills from the pottery workshop
a view of the hills from the pottery workshop

everyday beijing

It’s getting warmer

here but before the ice melted ice skating was enjoyed on this frozen river in the city centre.

ice skating 2 ice skating

Knitting

has become a new fascination for me as a way to explore colour combinations [thank you Kaffe Fassett] and I have discovered a local wool shop where the aunties who run it seem to know which ball of wool I want when I point and speak very rudimentary putonghua. They are no doubt bemused by the fact that I buy one ball of wool in each colour with no reference to type, thickness etc.  Some images of knitting in Beijing…and thanks to Joe’s photos of the giant ball of wool xmas tree near Tiananmen Square I have at last made the link and see that it’s appropriate that I have taken up knitting in the year of the sheep!

seat knit 2 bike seat 3

knit 4 knit 3

A ceramic structure at a nearby historic park – the Temple of Heaven- and a luminous green foil car/tin can. Yes there’s a colour connection but so far I haven’t found shiny metallic fibre to knit with.

ceramic structure foil car

Spring Festival

is almost here – the local Hutong where we buy most of our veggies has emptied out considerably, many of the usual stalls and restaurants have already closed a week before the event. We have had some debate around whether it’s the year of the goat or the sheep as the word in Chinese is the same, no consensus has yet emerged amongst those whose opinion we’ve sought. There are posters appearing near our flat warning of the dangers of fireworks whilst at the same time a large stall selling fireworks has been erected outside the Workers’ Stadium. More to come on this subject in the next blog.

proliferating numbers of stalls selling fireworks on street corners in Beijing
there are proliferating stalls selling fireworks on the street – yes I am a little worried about what’s to come!

The first image below is of Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, showing sheep/goats [lama?] or possibly recycled horses from last  New Year’s traffic island display and the second gives a taste of red lanterns in Beijing creating a sense of anticipation for the festivities ahead.

HK sheep? lanterns

sunset snaps

Amazing walk [up hill all the way] to a mountain top view near our flat in Hang Hau and surprisingly only signposted to Clearwater Bay road, no hint of the fact that you can see all the way to the Peak Tower and possibly into China !!!

pink sky over Sai Kung
pink sky over Sai Kung
distant hills
distant hills
tower blocks as patterns
tower blocks as pattern