The Vase Project: Made in China – Landscape in Blue

Barbara Diduk, ceramic artist, and Charles A. Dana, Professor of Art at Dickinson College, collaborated with Zhao Yu from the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute on The Vase Project.

The conceptual installation comprises 101 porcelain vases painted by qing hua (blue and white) artisan and artist painters in Jingdezhen, China, where ceramics have been produced for more than 1800 years. The installation considers a transitory moment in pre- and post-industrial production practice where thousands of objects produced in factories throughout Jingdezhen are still created and painted by hand. The region’s porcelain industry has undergone rapid changes in the 20th century as it went from state control to a global market economy.

Diduk and Zhao Yu selected vase painters randomly from small workshops, ceramic markets, and production sites in Jingdezhen. The first painter was asked to paint a contemporary landscape on a vase based on (not copy) a thumbnail sketch that incorporated the iconic kiln stacks emblematic of the city skyline.

Working one painter at a time, each was asked to interpret the previous painter’s work, and  used his or her cobalt pigments and their neighborhood kilns for firing the work, thus preserving the integrity of the production process and the color and firing differentiation typical of the hands-on work produced in Jingdezhen. The result is a “chain letter” of sorts, a contemporary archaeology “in the making,” and an archive about the ceramic painting and manufacturing practices in the city.

This profusely illustrated catalogue includes an introduction by Barbara Diduk, foreword by Ronald Kuchta, essays by art historians Ingrid Furniss and Ellen Huang, and filmmaker and anthropologist Maris Boyd Gillette.