I could have spent the whole day at the Summer Palace. But we only had about two hours. A small group of us separated from the tour group and took our own tour around the complex. The palace is so large that the best way to see it in that amount of time was to take a boat out on the lake. Se we rented a boat and made a big loop around the lake to see as many buildings as we could from the water. Wow, this was truly beautiful!
On our second day in Beijing we wanted to see as many sights as possible so we signed up for a tour of the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and the Temple of Heaven. This was a whirlwind tour and for the first time visiting Beijing I highly recommend it. However, we had a very long stop at a pearl store that felt like a big waste of time but overall it was great way to see and learn a lot. Our first stop was the Forbidden City. For the most part all of the buildings looked the same and the whole complex felt barren without any trees or plants. The main thing that set each building apart was the number of animals on the corners of the buildings. The more animals the more significant the building, with 9 being the highest number. My favorite parts of the Forbidden City were all the details in the marble railings, the metalwork on the doors, and in the ceramic tiles around the doors and on the roof line. The last room was the imperial ceramic collection. We had about 5 minutes to walk through and see as much as we could. This is not enough time for a ceramic artist! I’ll share photos from the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven over the next two days.
I was so looking forward to this weekend in Beijing!! The first day here we went to the Great Wall at Mutianyu, about two hours north of Beijing. This part of the wall has roughly 1.5 miles of restored wall you can hike on. We started out by taking a chair lift up then hiked east to the end of the restored part of the wall. We then took off on a side trail to the unrestored part. It was amazing to see the Wall hug the mountain ridge off in the distance and to feel how steep it was. I’ve always wondered about how quickly a fire signal could travel from one watch tower to the next. But seeing firsthand how close these towers were I could image just how quickly a message could travel. The unrestored part of the wall was overgrown and in areas blown out completely. The people we were traveling with said these big holes could’ve been from when the Japanese bombed it in the 1930’s. There was so much history all around us and yet we were in the middle of this forest. I was overwhelmed with a sense of peace and awe.
That night we were treated to a dinner at a Chinese Opera House. Then we went to the night market to checkout the assortment of odd street food. Enjoy the photos!
The next destination on our trip was a mosaic factory in Zibo. We went on a tour of the factory then spent the rest of the day selecting forms, colors, and patterns for sampling. I had so much fun planning and designing with my coworker, Jeff Goodsell. We were really in sync with our aesthetic direction and design process for this project. I think this was one of the most rewarding days and it makes me want to collaborate on a project with another artist again.
My other favorite part of the day was lunch! We pulled up to this giant metal warehouse/greenhouse and on the inside was a lush garden with lots of little buildings that were individual dining rooms. One end of the warehouse is where you select your food from fish tanks and plates of food covered with plastic. In the tanks were different types of fish, shellfish, frogs, shrimp, and lots of other sea creatures. I wish I had taken a photo of each tank! I’m not sure what we ate but in usual fashion it was over the top and delicious. I don’t think I ate anything too strange except for something I thought was french fries that on closer inspection had eyes at one end. It turned out to be some kind of tiny fish that was fried up like french fries and as far as I was concerned had the texture of crunchy french fries. They were pretty good!
Another day in Shenyang and more visits to glass factories. It was a day of contradictions. On one of the factory tours we got to see the coal room on the first floor. This is where they stoke the furnace for the glass blowing operations on the second floor. Just outside of one of the coal rooms was a pretty raised flower bed in the courtyard. Then on the way back to the airport, around 2:00 pm, the sky turned a weird pink color. It was disturbing to see this level of air pollution and all of the smoke stacks we were passing. It was at this point that I really started to think about my role as a designer of objects for the mass market and as a consumer. This was very troubling for me and was starting to get harder for me to rationalize. Just consider that the water in China is not drinkable and the air is so polluted that a 1/3 of the pollution on the west coast of the U.S. comes from China. One of our hosts told us how the Chinese find it funny that Americans wear sunglasses. They think our fair eyes burn easily. But after she visited the U.S. she realized how bad the air in China really is. She said the people in Shenyang hadn’t even seen the sun in 30 years until the recent factory shut down in Beijing so they could have clear skies for the military parade. How sad.
This is the first day I really experienced terrible air pollution. On Day 7 we took a flight up to Shenyang (just north of North Korea) to visit four different glass factories. I always enjoy sitting next to a window so I can see the terrain change below me. But on this flight the pollution was so bad I couldn’t see anything! I took a couple of photos as the plane was about to break through the layer of pollution into clear blue sky. When we landed it wasn’t any better. The sky looked like it was overcast and felt like it would be a drizzly day. Yikes, that couldn’t have been good for my lungs!
This was also my first day of traveling without my coworker. This time I was traveling with Chinese nationals, the owner of the second host factory and two designers. My coworker also didn’t warn me that I would have an entourage when I arrived in Shenyang. What a weird experience! The last few days of the trip we always had people with us but we usually fit in one car or van. But when we walked out into the airport parking lot there were three cars waiting for us. Then when I toured the showrooms and selected pieces for sampling and photographing there were five people behind me photographing the same thing. So it was a challenge to focus and actually work. I ended up selecting way too many items and after looking through my photos I was not in love with some of the things I did choose. Lesson learned.
The Chinese are incredibly generous and great hosts!! Every meal was overflowing with delicious food. The meals in Shenyang were no different. The food was a little less spicy and there seemed to be a little more variety in textures in the north. One of my favorite treats were dumpling pastries that were filled with some kind of sweet custard. They were so yummy!!! I included a photo of these pastries that were made to look like mushrooms. I was a little skeptical about trying them at first but was totally surprised.
On Day 6 we woke up early and took the bullet train to Chaozhou, also known as the ceramics capital of China. This day was so exciting! We ended up visiting three factories on this trip. The first was a factory where they made hand painted ceramics. These workers were fast and efficient! First a worker would stamp an outline of the design on a plate using a piece of foam and food coloring. Then the plate would go to another worker to apply the first set of colors and then passed to a third worker to apply the second set of colors. Overall, each worker spent no more than a minute on each piece. You can see the process in the photos and video above.
Next, we would see thousands of glaze test tiles at two different glaze factories. We ended up spending too much time at the first factory so we didn’t have much time to look through glaze tests. It was quite overwhelming to even begin to look through the glaze selections. There was no organization just test tiles everywhere, on the floor, on the shelves, in cabinets, on sliding racks, and in boxes! Yikes, all I could do was quickly walk through and photograph tiles that might work for our projects. Just before leaving the second factory we were invited into the glaze testing room to see where the magic happens. There was a woman mixing glazes who so kindly let us look around her work space. There were mugs with raw materials lined up on the wall, a row of glaze tests sitting on the table, and a notebook with glaze recipes open next to a scale. I could’ve spent much more time here if we didn’t have to get back to the train station.
The best part of the trip was on the way back to the train station. I had mentioned to our host that I wanted to find an Yixing style teapot while in China. I wasn’t sure what my free time would look like for the trip and if I would be able to make it up to Jingdezhen, where I was hoping to find a teapot. But as it turned out our driver new a local potter and took us to his store. I knew right away that this was a gem of an opportunity!!! I had about 15 minutes to select a teapot and purchase it. The potter was not there but I did get to meet his wife and have tea with her. She pointed out photos of him, showed us his awards, and told us about his accomplishments. This was truly a treat!!!
After working all day at our host factory we decided to end the day with a hike up the 3800 steps to the top of the Nine Dragons Mountain. Wow, this was exhausting and killed my knees!!! The hike started out easy enough. There were 9 pavilions spaced out evenly all the way to the top, so we could rest along the way. However, as you get closer to the top of the mountain the steps get tighter together and become much taller. So much so that it felt like we were climbing up the last set of steps. Of course we didn’t start early enough and so it was dark by the time we got to the top. While standing at the top and looking down at the city lights we heard a very loud “BOOM” which scared the crap out of all of us. It turns out it was a plane breaking the sound barrier. This is not something you want to hear at the top of a mountain in a foreign country.
Day 4 was a Sunday. I had a little downtime in the morning before an afternoon of meetings and a long drive back to Huidong. So we went sightseeing. My host took me over to Shenzhen Bay and we walked out on a pier that went pretty far out over the water. The view was amazing, even on an overcast day! We could see Hong Kong on one side and Shenzhen behind us. It’s hard to believe that only 30 years ago Shenzhen was all farmland. You can see in the photos how built up it is with high-rises.
Next, we went on a tour of the Window of the World theme park. This was an entertaining trip! First off, this is a park that has miniature replicas of many of the world’s famous landmarks. So this was cool to see some of the temples and buildings that I’ve only seen pictures of, kind of like a giant popup book. But…this tour started out with a woman yelling a me and my host and of course I couldn’t understand her and he wouldn’t tell me what she was saying. Eventually, she joined our group and then insisted on taking pictures of me, with my phone, in front of every monument! Ahhhh! Oh, I couldn’t help but laugh and enjoy the moment. To top it off she started posing me too! So I have almost 200 photos of ME in front of all of these miniature landmarks. Here are just a few photos of me. Enjoy!
Day three was also spent in Huidong. The factory we were staying with had recently moved a few miles closer to town. So we took some time out of the day to visit the older facility. The factory is still in use but much of it is shut down. I’ve included photos of the grounds of the new factory and the old so you can see how quickly the tropical plant life takes over. This space is still used for mold making and you can see in the images that they produce 1000’s upon 1000’s of molds. I was blown away by the number of molds in storage and by how quickly they produce more molds!!!
Not far from the old factory was the Nine Dragons Temple complex and mountain. I got to visit this area three times throughout my trip and it still didn’t feel like enough. It was so amazing! Maybe I was just happy to be out in nature and getting some exercise but mostly it felt sacred and special. This complex consisted of nine temples and beyond the temples were 3800 stone steps that led all the way up to the top of the mountain. For this first visit we just walked around a few of the temples. I couldn’t get enough of the ornate architecture and sculptures. I loved the weathered surface of the buildings and the moss growing all over. There were fireworks going off in the background and the scent of incense burning in the temples. This is a place that is used by locals and cared for by locals. It felt accessible and familiar as opposed to some of the larger more touristy temples we would visit later. This was truly a special place and I hope to go back again someday.
The first night we stayed with our host factory in Huidong, about 2.5 to 3 hours northeast of Hong Kong, in the town of Pingshan. This would be our home base, where we would return between trips to other parts of China. We were setup in dorm rooms on the factory grounds, which were really just like hotel rooms. We spent the next day touring the factory. It was so exciting to see a ceramics operation of this scale! I use slip casting and mold making in my studio practice but it was impressive to see a seven story factory with 1000’s of molds, kilns that run the length of each floor, and massive slip tanks. Beyond that, the grounds were immaculately manicured and there was even a water treatment system that returned clean water from the factory to the water system.
I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about visiting Chinese factories and the conditions I would see. But after touring this facility I realized that not all of China’s factories are as bad as we see in the news. I did hear later that this would be the nicest factory we would visit.
The first few days of the trip were a whirl wind and set the tone for the rest of the trip. We, my coworker and I, ended up flying into Hong Kong at 5:00 AM and were able to get a couple of hours of rest before getting to work. All be it, work was visiting the factory showroom of the factory that was hosting us, meeting people, and looking at product. It doesn’t sound like much but it was exhausting! This is pretty much how everyday went with a few days of downtime. In all, we ended up visiting 9 cities and around 17 factories in 22 days. I wish I could’ve posted these photos when I was in China but the internet was not all that accessible, to say the least.
I quit my day job!!!
The last 2 1/2 years have been a great experience in the world of product design, culminating in a trip to China to visit ceramics and glass factories. I have learned a whole new skill set in product design, development, management, and business practices. But my studio time was lacking with trying to squeeze in an hour or two before and after work. I was quickly realizing that this practice was not sustainable and decided that it was time to leave this position and to focus on my art again.
Now I’m working full-time in my studio! I’m taking the time to experiment and develop new forms, patterns, and glazes. As my work develops I will share the process and photos here.
To kick things off I would like to share a few of my many photos from my trip to China and Japan. I spent 27 days traveling and took around 8,000 photos total. That’s a lot!!! My plan is to post a couple of photos a few times a week throughout the month. Needless to say, I was very inspired by this trip. I’m not certain how this will play out in my work yet but I know it will have an impact.
Here's a sneak peek at some molds in progress.
I started working as a ceramics designer a little over a year ago. Working a day job was not something I had planned on when I moved to Salt Lake City. However, after struggling with various aspects of my clay business I decided it might be time for a small break from the studio. I ended up doing a search in the online classifieds for a ceramic artist job. Pipe dream... right? Well it returned one result, ceramics designer, and I jumped at the opportunity to learn something new.
This was not the career path I anticipated. But now a year later, I feel that my eyes have been opened to another side of the industry and I’m starting to learn some things about the business world. I am an artist after all and have neglected the business side of things because I would prefer to be in the studio. I am now taking some small business classes, listening to business podcasts, and reading business books. Completely, contrary to my nature I have said “No” to opportunities that have come up and have instead kept my focus on building my studio work. My passion is making elegantly designed ceramic objects and my intention is to turn this passion into a viable business.
Please check back for future updates. I will do my best to share what I’m working on in the studio and share tidbits of knowledge that may be helpful.
I think it's good to switch things up from time to time in the studio. Sometimes that fear of failure can keep us from changing our glazes, firing tempurature, or what have you. Admittedly, I'm a bit of a perfectionist and failure can be extremely frustrating. But when something is just not working the way I want I take a moment to think about what it is I'm learning from that experience.
This move to Utah has thrown me into a bit of a tailspin with all that I'm trying to work through. But I'm trying to tackle one or two things at a time. Figuring out a working clay body is first and foremost while also designing a new mold here and there. When I was planning my move I thought I would throw out all of my molds, around 100 or so, and start fresh when I got here. I'm so grateful that my friend Donna Polseno talked me out of that. I narrowed it down to around 25 molds that I would pack and move. That allowed me to start working right away and make molds as I go along.
With this in mind I've decided to write about my clay, plaster, and glaze disasters. This week I'm sharing my trial and error with clay. I mixed up 10 gallons of the clay body I felt was most successful from my last clay tests. This was enough clay to make work for the holidays but not enough to feel like I would waste a bunch of material if it didn't work out. I quickly found out that this clay was problamatic. The clay was not plastic enough for me to be able to bend the handles slightly to attach them. So they all cracked before they were even attached. Ughhh.... Then I found out the clay did not like my complicated molds, like the scalloped bowl or jar, again not plastic enough. They all cracked at the indents. About 50% of all the things I made survived the greenware stage, bisque firing, and glaze firing. But once everything was removed from the kiln, cool to the touch, and resting on the shelves for a few hours the large forms started breaking. I think this could be a glaze/clay fit problem but I can't worry about that until I figure out my clay. Small round cups and bowls survived just fine.
Now, I'm running another batch of clay tests. This time I incrementally increased the ball clay (plastic clay) and the flux (melter) while also decreasing the silica (glass). So far I like the feel of the clay, it seems a little more plastic, and after soaking the test tiles in water overnight they absorbed less than 1% of water. The next step is to mix up one of these clay bodies in a two gallon batch and cast my molds. Hopefully, I can post the results next week if not it will have to wait until after my month long hiatus to the East Coast.
I normally don't make New Year's Resolutions because it seems like I'm setting myself up for failure. However, with moving to a new place and all the changes that brings with it I've decided to set a few goals for 2013.
1. An hour of physical activity everyday. When we lived in Washington, my husband, Jeff, and I biked through the winter. But now I'm finding that we're not as active through the winter here in Salt Lake City. So in an effort to keep my legs ready for biking in the spring I have signed up for a gym membership and plan on going to the cycling class.
2. To follow all the recipes in my Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats cookbook. I enjoy cooking and trying new recipes but when it comes to deciding on "what's for dinner" Jeff and I have very different ideas of what we each find appetizing. As a result I have fallen into a cooking rut. My mom bought me this book a few years ago and now I'm going to put it to use. By the way, I made shepards pie last night and it was tasty!
3. To list and/or relist items in my Etsy shop daily. I tried this out a couple of years ago and found that it drove a lot of traffic to my site and I had increased sales. While I am mostly focusing on developing new work this year I also want to maintain a presence in my online store.
4. I will write blog posts and post on my Facebook page weekly.
5. Lastly, I will apply for four shows a month. This is something I should be doing anyway but the administrative side of my business seems to take a backseat to working in the studio. That is something else I'm working on.
This should be enough to keep me busy, until February anyway. What are your new year's resolutions?
Wow! What a great response to the combined Giveaway for seeds from Moonlight Micro-farm and a planter made by me!! The winner is Elena Vo!
Thank you to everyone who partipated. I enjoyed reading all the comments and visiting the different Facebook and Twitter pages. Please keep an eye on my Facebook page and blog for updates on what's happening in my studio, for images of new work, and possible future giveaways. My sister and I had so much fun putting this together and we hope to do it again sometime soon. A big thank you to Chandra Hartman from Moonlight Micro-farm for offering up five packs of seeds for this Giveaway! Check out her store on etsy, MoonlightMicroFarm, if you haven't already.
GIVEAWAY! My sister, Chandra Hartman owner of Moonlight Micro-Farm, and I are planning to do a combined giveaway for the holidays. One lucky person will win a beautiful handmade ceramic planter by Dara Hartman Ceramics and five packs (your choice) of heirloom seeds from Moonlight Micro-Farm. What a great combination and it will make a wonderful addition to your garden!
DETAILS To enter: “Like” both Dara Hartman Ceramics and Moonlight Micro-Farm on Facebook. Then leave a comment here letting us know what your favorite item is from either of our shops. Deadline: Giveaway ends Sunday, December 9th at midnight, MST. The winner will be drawn at random and announced on Monday, December 10th.
Additional ways to enter: Share on Facebook: Post or share this Giveaway announcement on your facebook page. Then leave a comment here letting us know you did so.
Twitter: Tweet the giveaway info below and leave a comment here letting us know you did so: Giveaway! Enter to win a planter from @DAHceramics and heirloom seeds from @moonmicrofarm! Details at http://www.darahartman.com/news/ (Ends 12/9)