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Archives for July 2015

Beijing, China: The Finest Handicraft of Chinese Culture

Considered to be one of the finest handicrafts of the culture, cloisonne combines the skills used to make bronze and porcelain pieces, as well as having a delicate hand of traditional Chinese painting and etching. To paraphrase from the sign outside of the factory, Chinese cloisonne, which translates to “blue of Jingtai”, is more than 500 years old, and as mentioned above, requires the effort of a skilled person to create a piece.

We were guided through the process of creating a piece. These vases show the visual of the intricate process in the creation of a piece (step 1-6).

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Step 1 – Body making: the shape is created out of copper and requires someone to have the skill set to shape and keep the thickness of the piece uniform throughout. In the case of the vase, it was 5”, and it took 5 days to make it fine.

Step 2 – Copper wire curving: The decided shape gets burned in the kiln at 1200C or roughly 2000F and then adds copper strips to the body. This step requires a steady hand, great care, and creativity. This takes about 10 days to complete.

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step_2_copper_wire_curving_cloisonne_beijing_china_day_with_kayeStep 3 – Enamel filling: Artisans use stone powder of different colors according to the design given in step 2. After adhered, the item will take on heat at 1200C again to melt the powder and melt it to the copper. The example of the 5” vase took 12 days on this step.

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Step 4 – Enamel firing: The item is put in the oven until the piece turns red and the enamel that had melted in step 3 will sink down. Then it needs to be filled in until the compartments are completely filled.

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Step 5 – Polishing: Special stones and carbon are used to polish the pieces. It takes about 6 days to polish to completion, but it takes more time if the pieces are larger.

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Step 6 – Gilding: The item is placed in a fluid of 24K gold or silver. Then the item is completed.

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You can tell a little bit from the pictures of the conditions of the factory workplace. It is simple with no air conditioning. There were only fans whirring on the few people working with all the tools needed to work on each special article. Each section of the factory we walked through was designated for its specific task.

At the end of the tour, we walked into the showroom, where they had a plethora of beautiful cloissonne to sell.

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Seeing the process, a lot of time, effort, and skill goes into each piece, as many artists know. To witness the steps and to have the appreciation of the handicraft was well worth the trip here.

Happy travels friends.