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NatureInterface > No.01 > P107 [Japanese]

Art: The Exciting World of China Painting -- Tsuneko Yamauchi

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The Exciting World of China Painting

Tsuneko Yamauchi

It takes about 50 minutes to drive from Syracuse, a city in upstate New York, USA, to the smaller town of Cazenovia. With conifers between maple trees and lakes lying here and there, you can enjoy the area's beautiful scenery. When peonies and azaleas start to blossom brightly, china painters from all over the world gather at a little college in this town.

In the 1960's, when china painting became popular as a hobby, the Professional Porcelain Artists Association (PPAA) was established for the purpose of coaching and tutoring painters and knowing each other. Every June, a seminar on china painting is held under the auspices of the PPAA. Painters are offered the campus of Cazenovia College while its students are away on summer vacation. This New York school is called "Caz" and painters regularly look forward to joining this program.

Apply special paints to the ceramic, fire it again and again: this is how an artist turns a piece of china into a finished work. The china can be anything, from kitchenware to craft objects such as a flower vase or a tile. A little box is best for a small gift, which can surprise and delight the person who opens the package. It is joyful to paint while thinking about the one who will receive your art. Moreover, the work endures unless it be broken. My family still uses the ones I painted some 20 years ago. In those days, I was just a beginner at china painting, under the guidance of Mrs. Mika Nakajima.

While bringing up the children, I used to paint imitating the works of the others for the first 10 years. It was not until I met Mrs. Olive Leslie in the US that I became conscious of my work. Mrs. Olive Leslie was a painter who had been brought up in Boston in the early 20th century. She played a significant role in the dawn of American china painting. Through her I learned of the infinite variety of colors, as well as how to express nature richly on chinaware. Even now, I can see the bright works displayed in her studio.

Because its surface is so smooth, chinaware doesn't absorb paint. Colors are fixed after the painted china is heated in a kiln and the paints have been baked into the surface. Paints consist of minerals. In those days, the best temperature for firing differed from color to color, though today china is better made and baking it is easier. The paints used nowadays require 800 degrees Celsius to be baked. The American technique is to express the depth and expansion of colors by baking a piece many times. It brings me pleasant feelings to paint on a piece of china, and every time, opening the kiln thrills me. I suppose that might be one of the reasons why china painting has attracted me for such a long time.

Those who gather at Caz are the ones with whom I can share this pleasure. China painting is a hobby in which we enjoy the interface between nature and life.

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