UMass ceramics seen by thousands at Jingdezhen Autumn Festival 

By Staff Writer Eric Sousa  In the second week of October, students at UMass Dartmouth were provided an incredible opportunity to travel to Jingdezhen in China for a special festival. The Autumn Festival is a renowned ceramics festival where artists travel from all over the world to display their work and appreciate the craftsmanship of others. Two students accompanied ceramics professor Jim Lawton this year as representatives of UMass Dartmouth.  UMass Dartmouth has provided many opportunities for its students over the course of its existence. You know, because that’s what colleges do. It’s their end of the bargain to fulfill: students pay exorbitant fees to go to school, and the school provides opportunities to experience life-changing events that can impact a person’s life. Such an experience was provided to CVPA students Katy Rodden Walker and Danielle O’Malley this past October.  They earned trip to China by submitting an essay and portfolio presentation arguing why they should be chosen to embark on this adventure. Against their peers, who also submitted their portfolios, they were selected for this experience.  UMass Dartmouth participated in the 3-day event (Oct. 17-19, 2019) which included a major exhibition of participants artwork, daily lectures by international artists and curators, an international film series, and roundtable discussions focused on creating global interchanges in the Ceramic Arts,” wrote Professor Lawton in an interview with the Torch.  This hotbed of international interest towards the future of ceramics, and the appreciation for the artists that brought them here, is a perfect opportunity for students that have fallen in love with the cultural world of ceramics. UMass Dartmouth was not alone in their attendance to this massive event, over 68 art colleges and institutions gathered from around the world to be immersed in this experience.  Many famous wandering contemporary artists, known as Jingpiao by the locals in Jingdezhen, were present at the festival. Reputable names such as Wan Li Ya and Juz Kitson are some of the more well-known figures that make routine appearances at the Autumn Festival.  Jingdezhen was not a venue randomly pulled out of a hat; Jingdezhen has had cultural connection to ceramics since the medium was first invented. “Jingdezhen was where porcelain was first developed in the Tang Dynasty (CE 618-907) and reached its apex during the Yuan (1272-1368,) Ming (1368-1644,) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties,” wrote Lawton. The experience of traveling to a birthplace of your passion must be indescribable.  When they weren’t attending the actual festival, the students took full advantage of the opportunity to explore the historical district which has so many ties to their craft. Truly, Jingdezhen was the place to be if you had an itch that only porcelain can scratch. Connections were made with students native to the area as well as representatives from all over the world; over 40 countries had establishments send students to attend this event. The enormity of this Festival’s outreach cannot be overstated.  The students at UMass Dartmouth were not only there to observe and attend, but to also show off their own skills as well. The attendees hailing from these institutions were representatives of their own corners of the world, and how the art of ceramics has grown there. It was a great opportunity to showcase ceramic skills, and UMass Dartmouth had plenty to display.  UMass Dartmouth had a booth at the Ceramic Avenue Fair, located in Taoxichuan, where our own ceramics were displayed. It was estimated that the attendance for this was between 10,000 and 15,000 people, along with other stalls set up from different institutions across the world.  Walker and O’Malley were able to show off their own hard work in the field of ceramics, as well as have the chance to appreciate the work done by other students from across the world.  Jingdezhen was kind to our students, and hopefully the future will bring more interactions such as this.   

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