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Yixing aims to attract European pottery enthusiasts
A collection of more than 60 ceramic artworks from Yixing, in China's Jiangsu province, went on show at the British Museum in London on Tuesday, marking an important first step in promoting the city's pottery industry abroad.
The exhibition, hosted jointly by the China National Tourist Office's London branch and City University London, attracted about 100 British enthusiasts and professionals who heard a lecture on Yixing ceramics.
The works by 34 Yixing artists included clay pots, bowls, vases, cups, plates and decorative objects. Yixing ceramic techniques that date back to the 15th century are famous for producing tea pots from local clay.
"Yixing ceramics are deeply rooted in history and tradition, which can be observed from the works' design, use of material and fine details in the craftsmanship. But it is continually changing through innovation to make more beautiful designs and skillful process of production," according to Shi Juntang, president of the Yixing City Ceramic Industry Association.
Shi said he hopes the exhibition will increase an awareness of Yixing ceramics among a UK and European audience, so that the city's artworks can be sold in Europe in the future.
"Currently Yixing ceramics have a large market in China and South East Asia, but in the future we'd like to sell them in Europe and other countries internationally," Shi said.
Christine-Ann Richards, a British ceramics artist, said Yixing ware demonstrates the dynamics between tradition and creativity. "There is a very set discipline for the construction of Yixing teapots, but within these confines a breadth of designs can be found," she said.
Cao Jingfang, a ceramics maker from Yixing, said she was very pleased to be exhibiting in London, where her works are on show for the first time outside China. She is displaying a teapot set and a decorative work showing two small boys sitting on a log and playing a game involving crickets.
Rob Kesseler, a professor of ceramic art and design at Central Saint Martins College, said he was impressed by the fine details of the Yixing works on display.
"It is impressive to see that Yixing ceramics has maintained its appreciation for ancient traditions, which can be seen through recurring motifs such as lotus and bamboo incorporated into some of the works' designs," said Kesseler.
"Seeing this exhibition is interesting because the UK's ceramics industry contains influences from China from historical times, but the UK's ceramics industry has now moved on with lots of innovations, so it will be interesting to see where Yixing ceramics goes next in terms of innovation."
He said he believed that if Yixing ware went on sale in the UK, it would attract niche buyers rather than the mass market, because of the works' unique designs and high prices.
According to Shi, prices for Yixing ware range widely, from about 100 pounds to tens of thousands of pounds, according to the artist, the design and the level of detail in production.