The cradle of porcelain

Back to the roots - Laura Strasser has spent one month in Jingdezhen in China, the birthplace of porcelain, to develop her new designs with local craftsmen.

The cradle of porcelain is in China. Over centuries traditional ceramic production has evolved and processing has been brought to perfection. Laura Straßer is a product designer from Germany that for a long time has been preoccupied with this traditional material. She develops her porcelain designs preferably from one special technique or material property. China and its important role in porcelain history is fascinating for the young woman. Quite a few of her works reflect Chinese history and its traditional techniques are a favorite base for new designs.

During a one month visit she has the opportunity to work with local craftsmen on two of her new designs. Laura Straßer wants to learn from China, understand Chinese skills and expertise, detect new things and work with the local people. The cultural exchange is most important to her as she likes to be prepared for the China of the future. For one year Straßer now works with JIA Inc., a Hongkong based design awarded company, that cleverly combines traditional Chinese craftsmanship and contemporary home ware design. The cooperation has reinforced her interest in Chinese culture. JIA Inc. has presented Straßer‘s porcelain service „Cobalt Mosaic“ and „Rice“ on this year Ambiente Trade Fair in Frankfurt. Arranged with elements of the blue decoration and so called Chinese rice grain porcelain both designs refer to typic Asian pattern.

In Jingdezhen Laura Straßer discovers a highly populated town that is centered on porcelain. The small factories are highly specialized and manufacture with great effort at high speed. The production process here is different from Thuringian home where Strasser has hands on almost everything. Her role in China is to escort the process and learn from the experts that exist for each step of porcelain production.

With her drawings she visits various factories to find the perfect specialist for the job. Since traditional techniques are the base for her designs, communication is much facilitated, so the designers says: „It is important for me to reflect the knowledge and skills of local craftsmen and women. I like the environment to be a part of my design.“ She loves to speak some Chinese but her designs already follow traditional porcelain decorations and models, which allows the local people to manufacture with much more comprehension.

The prototype for Laura Straßer‘s new pendular lamp called „Lampion“ is manufactured in Jingdezhen. The particular relief technique, that decorates the upper part of the lampshade, produces a stunning visual effect that only becomes visible when the lamp is switched on. The result is possible thanks to waverthin, bright white porcelain of which the lamp duo is made. Production of the so called eggshell cladding is an old Chinese tradition. During firing the highly breakable mass doesn‘t crack due to a special porcelain clay mixture. The local factory that has been selected to manufacture Straßer‘s lamp duo, is specialized in eggshell porcelain and each piece was produced with best care and attention.

Using traditional production technique the new edition of porcelain vases for Ilmgold was also made in Jingdezhen.The vases are real pottery ware and are not made by slip casting. During production process slight differences in form or size may occur, which means each piece of the collection is unique. This results is fascinating for Straßer: „When I first arrived, I was astonished by the amount of hands that touch the porcelain mass from start to final production. Everybody involved in this process strives for perfection but of course each time the object gets a personal touch and history becomes part of it. This I wish to show not hide from people.“ The new vase is a variation of a traditional model from Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). It is garnished with cobalt blue decorations. Ilmgold decorations typically are a bit crooked and this time they get etched onto metal printing plate in order to be printed as underglaze blue decoration on filmy paper. Using the transfer paper, the blue decorations get rubbed onto the white mass by hand. The blue decoration melts during firing into the glaze and achieves its distinctive aesthetics, which is also remarkable for old Chinese porcelain. Laura Strasser very much likes this result: „The ideal blend of a serial produced work and handmade. The decor looks very vivid.“ The blue decoration is devoted to the Chinese role model and very special for Ilmgold - „Ilmgold chinois“ Straßer observes how the handmade serial production for the new Ilmgold vase finishes in just a few days.

Jingdezhen is changing quickly and the wealth of the region is growing. At the backyard of the little workshops with unrendered walls and exposed laid cables are parking precious cars. The customers visit as well with expensive cars and often they adroitly stalk on high heels over unpaved mud paths to the workshop and small shops. Every place and corner in Jingdezhen is under construction. Laura Straßer also observes how modern housing blocks are shooting up. The young German likes to soak in more of the fast moving atmosphere that currently impacts the country and is planning her next trip to China already.

Background information: Porcelain from Jindezhen
Jingdezhen porcelain is world famous and handmade from porcelain clay found in the surrounding hills. Since the early 18th century the equal mixture of Kaolinite clay determined the enduring qualities of the „White Gold“. However, the famous blue-and-white decoration was already developed during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) by local craftsmen. In Jingdezhen the processing of ceramic has evolved and refined with new variations over many centuries.

Design team:

Studio Laura Strasser