Jian Shui Zi Tao Pottery is a traditional folk craft in Jianshui County, Yunnan Province in China. It is made of five clays in the suburbs of Jianshui. The five clays (white, yellow, purple, cyan and which colour) are blended and cured to make teapot which is strong and stable with excellent heat retention and tea softening qualities. There’re more than ten process steps of making a Jianshui Zi Tao Purple Clay Teapot. Every procedure requires extreme caution. If there’s any problem in any of the process, this Jianshui purple clay teapot will be completely scrapped.
Main Process Steps:
泥料制备 Mud Preparation – 拉坯 Wheel Throwing – 修坯 Trimming – 书法绘画 Calligraphy and Painting – 雕刻 Carving – 填泥 Filling Colorful Mud – 除泥打理 Mud Pressing – 精修 Refine Teapot Body – 粘接壶嘴壶把 Attaching Spout and Handle – 自然风干 Natural Air Drying – 烧制 Firing – 打磨 Grinding
一 Mud Preparation
The mud preparation of purple pottery clay is a lengthy process that is divided into the following steps:
取料 Collect ore material – 醒料 Awakening Clay – 选料 Clay Selection – 配料 Blending Clay – 碎料 Crushing Clay – 淘洗滤浆 Washing and Filtering Slurry – 滤泥 Filtering Mud – 醒泥 Mud Awakening– 陈腐Aging
1. 取料 Collect ore material
Collect ore material: go to the origin place to dig up high-quality soil material, that is, raw material. The untreated raw clay material is called “raw mud” by the locals.
2. 醒料 Awakening Clay
Awakening Clay: The raw mud contains a certain amount of water, it must be dried until hand twist into powder. Wake-up is the term used to describe how raw mud dries out.
3. 选料 Clay Selection
Clay Selection: Some gravel, rubble, etc. may be present in the raw mud. These detritus must be picked carefully to ensure the quality of the material.
4. 配料 Blending Clay
Blending Clay: Skilled artisans will proportionately combine the five colored soils with “pottery clay” in accordance with the final product’s firing specifications.
Why do you need blending material? In the opinion of innumerable artisans, any single-color clay pottery has some drawbacks, such as excessive shrinkage, unsightly coloration. Ultimately, it was discovered that mixing clay is ideal for making teapot.
5. 碎料 Crushing Clay
Crushing Clay: Crumble the prepared “pottery clay” into consistent “crumbs,” but they shouldn’t be bigger than broad beans in size. The soil particles of each hue must be consistent in size in order to prevent the mud from condensing and agglomerating during the subsequent process.
6. 淘洗滤浆 Washing and Filtering Slurry
Pour the crushed clay into a big container, add three times as much water as the crushed clay, stir and soak for five to six hours. Stirring again to create a paste until the mud has thoroughly softened and diluted.
Filter the washed slurry with gauze; clean the coarser particles and impurities again. Repeatedly filter and soak for four or five times, leaving only pure slurry.
7. 滤泥 Filtering Mud
Filtering Mud: Pour the mud into a clean container with a cover and a stand to filter the water; then, wait for the water to naturally separate; empty the container of any surplus water; at last, pour the leftover mud into a container made of gypsum to absorb the remaining water.
8. 醒泥 Mud Awakening
Mud Awakening: The produced mud is not stable enough, which will result in a lesser yield. As a result, it must be stored for a while before being utilized.
This step which is known as Mud Awakening will take 7 to 15 days.
9. 陈腐 Aging
Aging: Placing the mud in a cool indoor location, covering it with filter cloth, and allowing it to naturally stale for longer than 3 months in a sealed state to avoid the occurrence of layering, cracking, and distortion during the firing process. The mud after aging process is stable with stronger plasticity and stability.
The entire mud preparation procedure requires a lot of time and energy. Mud is a crucial component in the creation of Jianshui Teaware, and only high-quality mud is used by competent artisans.
二 Wheel Throwing Teapot
Before wheel-throwing clay, knead the mud like you would dough. The moisture in the mud would be more homogeneous and the mud should be completely free of air bubbles in order to prevent the fired pottery from forming bubbles and ruining the work.
The Jianshui purple pottery clay is very delicate. Whether the shape of the pottery product is symmetrical and attractive in the later stage depends entirely on the experience and aesthetics of the craftsman.
The wet pottery product, which is taking shape, contains large amount of water and should be dried in a cool and dry place for one to two days before moving on to the next step of trimming.
三 Trimming Teapot
Trimming the uneven surface of the teapot smooth and uniform, and make the unequal thickness to be uniform in order to prevent kiln cracking.
四 Calligraphy and Painting
The crafter creates calligraphy and painting on the teapot using the teapot as paper. The teapot’s decorative beauty is a fusion of poetry, calligraphy, painting, and other forms of art.
Use graver to carve out the painted illustrations. To use qie dao, hua dao or tiao dao method depends on the paintings.
六 Filling with Colorful Mud
A crucial step in achieving the pattern and color gradient of Jianshui pottery painting is filling with mud of various colors. According to the decoration needs of Jianshui teapot, use a trowel to pour different colors of mud into the carved patterns, and push gently while filling. Make the color mud fit into the engraving mold entirely without leaving air bubbles.
七 Mud Pressing
Roll out the excess mud once the colorful mud has dried to a certain extent. If the mud filled is insufficient, more mud must be added in order to remove air bubbles from the colorful mud. Then, scrape away the remaining mud to reveal the image, and press it again. The mud pressing should be repeated 2-4 times at 2-3 hour intervals. The goal is to firmly combine the color mud and the teapot body so that the picture does not crack after burning.
八 Refine Teapot Body
The surface of the teapot body will be damaged to some extent after decoration and filling, so it will need to be refined to make it smooth and consistent.
It is also necessary to maintain a certain level of dryness and humidity during refining; otherwise, the engraved and embedded parts of the teapot surface, as well as the overall standard of the shape, will be damaged.
九 Attaching Spout and Handle
The spout and handle directly impact the shape and rhythm of the entire teapot body, as well as the overall use in the later stages such as handling comfort, water out and water off. It also has a direct impact on the yield of Jianshui Zitao Teaware.
It is important to keep the spout, body and handle in a straight line during production.
十 Natural Air Drying
Put the teapot in dry place to dry for 2-4 weeks (depending on the thickness and size of the zitao clay teaware), and then fire it in kiln.
The zitao purple clay wares are fired in kilns for up to 20 hours at around 1000 degrees Celsius.
The surface of newly fired purple pottery teaware is covered with a layer of metallic fire skin that must be removed by sandblasting or grinding, reflecting the unique unglazed polishing process of Jianshui purple pottery.
These are the 12 main steps in the production of Jianshui Zitao Clay Teaware. The craftsmen create exquisite purple pottery Teaware with care of every step, as well as treat of every piece of gorgeous pottery clay with care.
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