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Posts Tagged ‘porcelain’

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Nancy Li, owner of TAO Select Image courtesy of artist.

Nancy Li of TAO Selection
Image courtesy of artist.

Believe it or not, porcelain had been on my mind just before my chance encounter with Nancy Li of TAO Selection.  I had come across a review of Edmund de Waal’s new book, The White Road.  A noted potter, the book chronicles de Waal’s “journey into an obsession” to learn more about the origins and reinvention of porcelain.  The prologue opens with de Waal in China: “I’m trying to cross a road in Jingdezhen in Jiangxi Province, the city of porcelain, the fabled Ur where it all starts …” Nancy Li is quick to tell you, and rightfully so, her family is from this region of China and that she is a third generation designer of porcelain.

Image courtesy of artist.

As I later told her, what I most admired about our first brief encounter outside of a church gift shop was her determination to find venues to market her jewelry, and also to share the story of her family and cultural heritage of working with porcelain. In his book de Waal writes of working with porcelain clay to make a jar. Though his studio is in South London, he writes, “… as I make this jar I’m in China. Porcelain is China. Porcelain is the journey to China.” During an interview, Nancy Li made a similar statement.

Image courtesy of artist.

We met briefly in Cambridge during her lunch break.  Again, with great passion, she began sharing the story of her family especially of her grandfather, a porcelain master.  For three generations the family and 15-20 employees have been working with clay using a proprietary process, molding it in forms from pendants to bowls to large statuary, hand-glazing and then firing the pieces in her family’s kiln.  I’ve always thought of porcelain as fragile but porcelain can be strong as Nancy demonstrated by dropping a lovely blue and white bracelet on the floor. It made a beautiful ringing sound and remained unbroken.

On her website, Nancy describes attending the top fashion school in China, Donghua University.  In talking with her I learned that six years ago she moved to the U.S. where she also received a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering from Boston University and a Management Degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management, part of her dual efforts to better understand the science behind porcelain and to raise awareness globally about the family business and the high-quality of the artwork produced.

Image courtesy of artist.

On top of her full-time job as a Systems Engineer, Nancy makes time to interact with people around Boston, educating them about porcelain and obtaining feedback about peoples’ fashion interests.   She shares the feedback with her family, including producing sketches for alterations and new designs, inspired by what she hears and by her own artistic background.

She describes wanting to help people understand that high-quality porcelain is not only for the wealthy.  It is not only something from the past to be found in antique stores.  It is contemporary and it is art, an art that represents a culture.  “Each piece of art has a story behind it,” she says at one point, holding a necklace in her hand.  “It is art that inspires, that’s meant to be shown and shared. I think Americans have a wrong impression that everything made in China is cheap quality. What my family does in its local community, what it has been doing for so long, is of the highest quality and I want to share that work, our work, and help it evolve.”

Following are links to learn more about and connect with designer Nancy Li and to view more of her wearable porcelain art.

TAO Selection Etsy Shop

TAO Selection Website

Following are links to learn more about artist and writer Edmund de Waal and his passion for porcelain.

http://www.edmunddewaal.com/

The White Road

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An unexpected treat as I meandered about the streets of Prague was to visit the National Gallery and view a small selection of its Asian and African art collection. There’s an excellent description of the collection’s origin and growth on the gallery website. When I visited, I was one of only a few people. In the silence and near solitude, it became almost a meditative space.  You can learn more in the link below.

Additional Reading

http://www.ngprague.cz/en/objekt-detail/kinsky-palace/

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