Saturday, November 19, 2016

Stranded in the Ceramics Valley

We were hopelessly stranded in a small ceramics shop/café in the Sanbao Valley art village when the rain which started slightly after lunch turned into a full-fledged storm. Luckily, a vacant taxi came to rescue after some point, we jumped right in and headed straight to Sanbao Ceramics Art Institute, a few kilometers down along the meandering road deep into the woods in the Sanbao Valley, for some much needed refuge.

Though reluctantly we had to give up our original plan of hopping around galleries and shopping because of the bad weather, turned out we managed to spend more time at the Institute, founded by ceramicist Jackson Li and situated with the picturesque backdrop of mountains and fields far away from the rest of the houses. On one side was the museum/gallery which showcases many of Jackson's own works or collections, or running exhibitions for the many artists they hosted in the artist-in-residence program throughout the year.

The wooden house right across the street is their workshop space along with accommodations for visitors. And it's not just ceramicists that they hosted - on the day we were there a contemporary painter from Beijing was working on some large-scale wall-paintings, or in a small room upstairs an artist was focusing on ceramics restoration using a century-old Japanese technique called kintsugi with lacquer and gold. It was just fun hanging out with them learning more what they were doing.

Before dinner we also managed to drop by Jingzhi-kongjian, an old ceramics factory-turned-exhibition space not far away from the Institute. A temporary exhibition by the name of "Design Jingdezhen" was held in the hall with contemporary pieces designed by local artists and designers. And we had the entire floor to ourselves as we slowly went through the exhibits and admired the works.

In the evening, as the rain has finally subsided, we stayed around for dinner at the restaurant on premise with Wendy, Jackson's sister who's responsible for the day-to-day running of the Institute. Despite the restaurant a bit out of the way and with the bad weather, the place was packed with many who didn't mind making a bit of detour to eat there. Nothing fancy really, but just home-style dishes with local ingredients, most grown nearby with a few meat dishes.

The Wo Ba, or 鍋巴 crispy rice, came as one big rounded piece formed in a slightly domed shape, and underneath was a simple gravy-like sauce with vegetables brunoise. The local chicken was stewed in the clay casserole with soy sauce and shiitake, and had great flavor with a firm texture. Even the basket of steamed vegetables – sweet potatoes and pumpkin – was extra tasty even though they were only slightly seasoned. You probably won’t find the restaurant listed in any guide book or tripadvisor, but the meal was seriously top-notch.

Every cloud has a silver lining... the afternoon storm might not be what we expected nor wanted, but because of that, we got to experience a bit of slow living, something we enjoyed tremendously.

When? October 25 2016
Where? 世外陶源 江西省景德鎮市昌江區三寶陶藝村

Photos from the trip:

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