Exhibition at the V&A: Blanc de Chine

On display at the V&A in London is the Blanc de Chine, a Continuous Conversation.

Dehua porcelain is more traditionally known in the West as Blanc de Chine and this is French for "White from China", and as the name suggests it is a type of white Chinese porcelain, made at Dehua in the Fujian province. It has been produced from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) to the present day.

The display features the historic Blanc de Chine from the permanent collection and illustrates how the techniques have developed and has inspired contemporary porcelains made in Dehua today

You just can’t escape the mastery of skill when you encounter the Figure of Guanyin 1580-1650 made by He Chaozong, one of the most celebrated Dehua Potters, this is really as good as it gets as the delicate fingers of Guanyin’s hands reflects his Extraordinary skill.

Many of these artists created individual plaster moulds to enable reproduction of such exquisite detail in porcelain, something that I have observed in one of my favourite contemporary porcelain artists in California, Crystal Morey. Here though we see the influence of this method in cup and saucer, pictured below. This was created in 2016 from a mould and finished with a clear glaze.

One of the main reasons I wanted to come the V&A was to see first hand the ‘Flower bowls’ that have come out to the Peter Ting studios in 2019, Zua Caiduan is the amazing woman who creates the porcelain flowers and they have to be the most exquisite things I have ever seen. These pieces are left unglazed and have a very natural imperfect perfectness about them.

“I am fascinated by many things in Dehua. The cup-and-saucer sets were created on my first visit, inspired by the most important element of blanc de chine Guanyin figure: the hands. The flower bowls celebrate the incredible Dehua tradition and skills. Together with my collaborator Ms Zha. I wanted to create objects of breath-taking beauty.” Peter Ting

Other pieces in the display took on a different approach Jeffery Mitchell adheres to the accessibility and creates a playful imagery and of clay Lucille Lewin takes her inspiration from nature and human impact on the planet. 

The life of a pea
Lucille Lewin

Jeffery Mitchell

One of the things I have been considering in my practise, and I will take away from the exhibition, is the finish of the pieces; many traditional pieces have a clear gloss to enhance the natural colour of the clay, some pieces are left unglazed and have an exquisite natural quality and others are entirely covered in a white glass, often with details added in a gold lustre. I always try an keep a matt finish but I do like the ability to combine different finishes with the same piece to try and give it depth and interest.