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Expert on Chinese pottery presents at MSU-Northern


Lindsay Brown

Ralph Esposito, a professor of arts at Carroll College, talks about his trip to China.

An expert on ceramic pottery gave a presentation on his travels to China and the pottery it is famous for Tuesday night in the latest installment of the Chancellor's Lecture Series at Montana State University-Northern

Ralph Esposito, a professor of arts at Carroll College in Helena, traveled to China with a group of students and professors from the University of West Virginia in September of 2012.

While in China, Esposito visited Shanghai and, most importantly, Jingdezhen. Jingdezhen is known around the world for its expertly crafted ceramic pottery, and many of the world's premiere pottery-makers and sculptors visit the city to experience the expertise which goes into the art.

The city started its path to its claim to fame when a Chinese emperor ordered the best pottery-makers from around the world to the city to make him "imperial ceramics."

Esposito gave two lectures in the city and took several workshops to learn the potters' techniques, many of which were contrary to the methods taught to him in the United States.

The potters of Jingdezhen made by hand what could only be made by machine in the U.S., he said. Fifteen-foot vases, six-foot tiles, close-to-perfect round pots - all made at an astonishing speed by workers split into a very specific division of labor.

Esposito said the workers of Jingdezhen specialize in being able to make anything.

"If you have an idea, you can take it to Jingdezhen and they will make it," Esposito said.

Esposito shared his experiences in China with the audience in the Automotive Technology Center's lecture hall and presented pottery he purchased in the country, explaining the techniques that went into making them.

The United States' fixation on nailing formulas of mixtures used for making pottery and reliance on certain techniques was missing in Jingdezhen, where people have perfected the art as they and their ancestors have been making pottery for thousands of years. The mixtures of materials and methods the people of Jingsezhen use are handed down and practiced to the point where both commercial and artistic pottery are made using muscle-memory and a fine eye.


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