KIA Opens Chinese Folk Pottery: The Art of the Everyday

Posted: March 6, 2015

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On March 14, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts will open Chinese Folk Pottery: The Art of the Everyday. The exhibition runs through June 21.

More than 100 contemporary examples of decorative and utilitarian folk ware are on view, collected from 23 sites in 12 provinces between 1995 and 2009. Though contemporary, the exhibition evokes a heritage of 8,000 years of folk pottery tradition across China.

As opposed to the refined porcelain ceramics created for royalty and the elite - well represented in museums - Chinese Folk Pottery shows objects produced for the country's majority. On view are pots, vessels, and dishes used for everyday storage, cooking, and serving, created by village potters for common people.

"These often-overlooked objects of daily use reveal techniques and aesthetics worth preserving," says Vicki Wright, KIA Director of Exhibitions and Collections.

As mass-produced goods have flooded commercial markets in China, once-thriving pottery villages composed of entire families of skilled potters and multiple kilns have, in places, shrunk to a single potter.

The show's curators became aware in their own study that segments of Chinese ceramic history and practice were quickly vanishing. Michigan ceramic artists Marie Woo, Susanne Stephenson, and John Stephenson traveled to remote pottery villages and kilns to collect, document and preserve "people's wares."

Ceramics on exhibit by Tibetan, Dai, Miao, Bai, and Han potters provide a glimpse of the diversity and rich tradition in Chinese folk pottery. Some of the techniques used in producing these objects are widespread throughout China, while others are localized to specific areas or to particular ethnic communities.

The exhibition in Kalamazoo is made possible by the Joy Light Fund for East Asian Art Acquisitions and Exhibitions.