Thursday, 15th January 2015. In the morning I check other teaware shops (where I have to watch every single step to avoid breaking the thick collection of porcelains) and I meet Miss J. for lunch. She takes me to Sanbao International Ceramic Art Village, a rural area of Jingdezhen, with a restaurant, gallery, museum and ceramic workshop. Awesome and relaxing places surrounded by green hills.
In the evening I move to R.V.'s house, another rare exemplar of Western human being, actually the first one I meet after I left Shanghai. I feel relieved, I'm not the only "alien" in town! R.V. is from Holland and he's also involved in the tea business. He makes me try one of the best Tie Guan Yin ever, from the autumn harvesting of an organic farm. The smell and the taste are very intense and I can clearly detect an orchid/flowery note. He also suggests me an interesting factory area, a bit far from the city center, where I spend a whole day of successful shopping!
On Saturday morning I visit The Pottery Workshop Creative Market, where young local artists sell their works, from traditional pottery or contemporary designs, to jewelry, sculpture, and much more. The market is relatively small and I don't see anything worth to buy so I move to R.' studio, the designer who hosted me the first two nights. I love his style, minimal but with a detail that makes every item unique. Hard to resist: I buy some stuff for me and some beautiful cups for nannuoshan! Proud to be his first oversea customer :-) I end this inspiring and productive morning buying some handpainted cups in another disctrict not far from here.
I have lunch in one of the many street restaurants of the area (where the food is good but the service very slow as there's only one fire place!) and I catch up with the artist L. for a tour in the hidden part of Jingdezhen, into the production core of the city. No shops here, only workshops and factories where everything is made by hand with such a mastery, precision and rapidity that leave me speechless! We meet L's former teacher, who is busy in smoking and shaping a big vase with the entire arm. He produces 100 of them each day!!! Time for me to practice what I learned in a pottery course back in Europe! In L.'s friend workshop it's my turn to get involved with clay and potter's wheel. I'm only able to produce conic-shaped cups, nothing else comes out from my hand. My teacher Anna would be disappointed! China 1 - Italy 0. On the second floor Mr. R.K., a painter from Beijing, is decorating a vase. He invites us to his studio and donate me a beautiful 书法 (shū fǎ), a calligraphy work on rice paper made by him in which is written 品茗 (pǐn míng), that means "to taste tea". I couldn't ask for a better present!
Jingdezhen is a city of contrast, as many other Chinese cities: modern skyscrapers cohabit with dusty and poor areas, the streets are dirty, the traffic is crazy but still everything fascinates me. The fact is that the city is alive: in the public parks you can always bump into people dancing together, or find an open air tailor or barber just around the corner!
After so much teaware hunting and new discoveries, I spend an alternative Sunday in a small village in the countryside, where a forest guard, friend of my host, is holding an housewarming lunch party! As soon as we park the car they start to launch fireworks - it seems that in China every occasion is good for fireworks. You can imagine hundreds of curious eyes staring at us...two foreigners in one time!!! We sit in the honor place together with some locals and we start eating any kind of food. Every now and then men rise the glasses of beers and drink it in one shot. Thankfully I'm allowed to sip just a little bit as I'm a girl. The more the alcohol runs the more the voices and the laughs become louder, and the drinking challenges imperative! Everything is fast: after one and a half hour we are already in the car on our way back to the city. I'm glad I had the chance to experience the authentic countryside! I spend the rest of the afternoon in the night market area. Even if it's only 3 pm some shops are already open and I manage to buy some contemporary gaiwan, hand-painted by a local young artist. My teaware talent scout mission in Jingdezhen is over, time to pack my backpack and head back to Shanghai for my last days in China.
Written by Michela.