04 April 2016
Ancient Chinese blue and white porcelain is colloquially known as the ‘Treasure of Mankind’ of Chinese porcelain. The craftsman moulds the raw model with firing, and draws on the outline of the picture before thrusting it into scorching-hot flames. Afterwards it is left to cool off, and already the image is beginning to take form. The sleek, white jade turns from thick to thin, producing a glistening verdant colour. The original outline of the picture emerges, the masterpiece being revealed with a single wipe, much like how a clear sky always looks its brightest after a downpour.
How can such colour and artistic concept be described? The appeal of blue and white porcelain is most likely the same as that of Chinese landscape ink paintings - their beauty is timeless and they evoke an array of emotions.
One of the connoisseurs of blue and white porcelain works is designer Yichuan Huang. Yichuan Huang has a passion for collecting antique blue and white porcelain pieces, and combining them with modern aesthetics using great care to create a unique brand of jewellery - Yichuan Jewellery.
Though originally it seemed little more than broken porcelain pieces, it has now become the “pièce de résistance”. This process, however, is much more than simply “inlaying porcelain piece into jewellery”. In the designer’s words,
it’s the process of having a ‘conversation’ with the pieces. This process, can be long or short.
Yichuan Huang always personally designs the jewellery, and selects each piece of blue and white porcelain by hand. Selecting the porcelain pieces is her so-called ‘conversation’ process. On occasion, selecting the pieces can be quick, though more often than not, the designer has to spend a long time hand-selecting the most suitable pieces and figuring out how to make use of the pattern.
After this vital step, the next step is completely in the hands of the designer’s craftsmanship. The designer first grinds down the porcelain pieces to size, then carefully finishes them down. Each curve must have smooth lines.
Slow and steady work yields fine products
- this old saying remains a principle for craftswomen like Yichuan Huang in the contemporary world.
Blue and white porcelain bears the bold mark of Chinese culture. Yichuan Huang’s designs bear such a mark in all respects, and incorporate other Chinese elements, using modern methods of aesthetics which constitute a form of contemporary art.
Take the Square-Circle Series
for example. In ancient China the square
were connected to Heaven
, because people at the time believed in the Round Heaven, Square Earth
philosophy, which implies that Square-Circle represents eternity and freedom. Taking this philosophy as her inspiration, Yichuan Huang created the Square-Circle Series.
One of the typical pieces is the Square-Circle Ring. The decorative part of this piece lends itself to traditional Chinese attire: the men’s ring from the collar of a traditional Chinese gentleman’s tunic suit, and the women’s ring from the collar of a traditional Chinese lady’s cheongsam. The designer then grinds the porcelain pieces 1.5mm thin, (the male part square, the female part circular) in order to be embedded and to embellish the collar buckle. Such remarkable and ingenious creativity is far and few between.
One may be curious as to how such traditional objects would be received by our Western counterparts. It so happens that as more and more Westerners begin to explore Chinese culture such as using blue and white as a prominent colour combination in fashion
and product designs,
contemporary Chinese designers are also exploring other cultures and integrating them into design. In some pieces, the designer integrates the Western jewel-crafting method of grab and inlay to inlay the blue and white porcelain pieces to maximise the appearance of the porcelain. Contrary to popular belief, the result of adopting this method was that it served to give even greater prominence to the pure and original essence of blue and white porcelain.
On the other hand, Yichuan's signature design collection The Angel
is the best example to demonstrate how she uses different culture elements into the design. The collection is inspired by the painting Angles and Devils painted by M.C. Escher, which presents the two extremes of life in the artist's geometric combination. Yichuan abstracted out the Angel figure, and re-adjusted it via adding some elements of Mandarin Ducks shapes into the final design.
Even though at times appreciating traditional art is both an obscure and personal matter, Yichuan Huang's works allows the people of today to interpret it and get animated by it. It is mainly because that her design concept is not only a form of appreciating traditional culture, but also serves as unique and arty daily wearable accessories.