Luo's kiln a new center for porcelain

Luo Jingpin, the founder of Shen Kiln in Jiading, has studied the underglazed red craftsmanship in the workshop for two years and  produced the porcelain of high quality.

Jiading, the 800-year-old district in northwest Shanghai, boasts profound culture and history, and is the site of a number of cultural venues such as Jiading Museum, Poly Grand Theater, Jiading Library, Shanghai Auto Museum and Han Tianheng Art Gallery.

In a few months, one more cultural venue, Shen Kiln Art Museum in Jiangqiao Town will open to the public as a place to enjoy the charm of porcelain in Shanghai rather than in Jingdezhen, the capital of porcelain.

Luo Jingpin, the founder of Shen Kiln, considered bringing porcelain to Shanghai after a trip to Jingdezhe. He gathered friends skilled in painting and calligraphy to launch a kiln workshop in Jiading in 1999. Several years later, Luo named his workshop Shen Kiln, Shen being another name for Shanghai.

Yu Hong / SHINE

Luo Jingpin, the founder of Shen Kiln, stands under the plaque writes “Shanghai Shen Kiln.” The porcelain pieces besides him on the table are all made in Shen Kiln workshop. He launched the kiln workshop in Jiangqiao Town and has now expanded the workshop into the Shen Kiln Culture and Art Museum. He looks forward to welcoming visitors to enjoy the charm of quality porcelain. 

“Shanghai is a special city in China. In the past, people from other parts with different cultural background rushed into Shanghai and settled down here. Shanghai then accepted all the cultures and turned these cultures into a new style called hai pai. So, hai pai is an innovation from inheriting the past. That is what I want on the porcelain,” said Luo.

Luo brought kaolin clay from Jingdezhen and started the operation of Shen Kiln. To make one piece of porcelain, there are a number of processes, including making the object, painting it, applying glaze and firing the finished article.

All these procedures are done by hand rather than machine.

Once Luo made tableware for a friend, some days later, his friend asked how the handmade items were almost exactly the same weight and had the same shape. The query only served to confirm the high quality of the porcelain produced in the Shen Kiln.

In the porcelain field, blue-and-white china and underglaze red craftsmanship are the most difficult to produce. Over the past two years, Luo and his team have been studying the crafts of underglaze red at the workshop.

Underglaze red is special because the painter first applies a grey color on the pottery, and fire it at 1,300 degrees Celsius. Under the high temperature, the grey color turns red.

Luo is pursuing an upgraded version of the process. Through changing temperatures while in the kiln, the red color will finally change to green. This is called yao bian, or kiln transformation.

Yu Hong / SHINE

A typical piece of underglaze red porcelain made at Shen Kiln

“We are artists not workers,” Luo said. “Yao bian is not easy to achieve but this is our goal. The harder to implement, the more eager we want to try,” said Luo.

After some 400 pieces, Luo and his team finally made huge progress in their craftsmanship and Luo said he was delighted with the latest batch of underglaze red porcelain.

“I have to say, at present in China or in the world, only Shen Kiln can produce the underglaze red porcelain in this yao bian style,” Luo said.

While in Shen Klin, every pattern on the pottery is painted by masters, expressing their internal feelings rather than just as an assignment. As a result, every painting is unique and it is hard to produce another similar piece.

Yu Hong / SHINE

A half-finished piece of underglaze red porcelain. The artist first applies the grey color on the pottery and then the color will change to red after firing at high temperatures.

Yu Hong / SHINE

Two pieces of underglaze red craftsmanship show different qualities. The one on the right is better than that on the left, according to Luo, as the effect of yao bian, red turning green, is clearer to see.

Recently, Luo went to Kashgar Prefecture in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, a connection on the Silk Road.

“I think the Silk Road should be called Silk-China Road. Silk, of course is the specialty in our country, but this production is less popular now. However, the porcelain, which is also called china, named after our country, is the real name card of China and still popular in foreign counties. We should cherish it and continue to promote our treasures to the public,” said Luo.

Although Luo is a Qingpu local, he chose to locate Shen Kiln in Jiading’s Jiangqiao. Luo said the cultural atmosphere in Jiading attracted him.

“In Jiading, people pay a lot of attentions on cultivation and education so there is a Confucius Temple, symbolizing the study environment and three zhuang yuan (top scholar) in the ancient time, born and raised here,” said Luo.

“The residents here are rich in cultural life, preferring to watch a performance in the theater or reading books in the library, rather than be addicted to the Internet. Besides, the government officials’ support for the cultural companies, which as far as I am concerned, is good for a growing company like mine.”

As a result, Shen Kiln was born in Jiading and now expands to the Shen Kiln Culture and Arts Center, which will open to the public next spring on Huajiang Road, still in Jiangqiao Town. The center includes a porcelain museum and an artists’ workshop. It will incorporate lectures on porcelain, an arts training school and a hotel.

At the Shen Kiln center, enthusiasts will be able to enjoy the charm of porcelain at home in Shanghai rather than traveling to Jingdezhen, some 500 to 600 kilometers away from the city.

Born in Shanghai, Shen Kiln is like Luo’s child. Luo said he will explore and pursue higher quality of underglaze red craftsmanship, continuing to be innovative from inheriting the past.  

Qin Yichao / Ti Gong

The latest batch of Shen Kiln underglaze red porcelain

Special Reports