edmund de waal: a thousand hours

i love chinese ceramics, so the opportunity to learn how to throw porcelain (yes, porcelain) pots from one of my favorite potters was an irresistible opportunity.

i first met british potter edmund de waal during a tour of his london studio while i was studying chinese art history at the british museum.   he describes himself as a maker and a writer.  but, i think that he is also a modern song dynasty ceramicist.  so, when he taught a ceramics course in conjunction with his porcelain room exhibition at the geffrye museum in london, i signed right up!  the hands on experience was unforgettable, even though the pots that i threw didn’t look like this:

ru ware incense burner

ash grey stoneware with blue grey glaze | henan province, china | northern song dynasty | late 11th-early 12th c

sir percival david collection | british museum | london, united kingdom

photo credit britishmuseum

or, like this:

edmund de waal | porcelain room | 2001

650 thrown porcelain vessels in celadon glazes

first exhibited at the geffrye museum, london united kingdom

photo credits edmund de waal

de waal used shelves, trenches, and ledges of pots to define the structure of the porcelain room.  after the exhibition, he began concentrating on creating installations instead of individual vessels.  doesn’t the red I-beam shelf that holds signs and wonders, an installation in the dome of the ceramics galleries at the victoria and albert museum (v&a) in london, seem like a structural element?


edmund de waal | signs and wonders | 2009

425 porcelain vessels in white, celadon, and grey glazes contained in a red aluminium shelf

installation in the dome of the ceramics galleries at the victoria and albert museum | london, united kingdom

photo credits edmund de waal

in america, edmund de waal may be best known as the author of the award winning and bestselling book, the hare with amber eyes…

edmund de waal | the hare with amber eyes | 2010

photo credit books.google.com

…the biography of a collection of 264 netsuke, and the biography of his family.

hare netsuke

ivory with eyes inlaid in amber buffalo horn | signed masatoshi | osaka, japan | circa 1880

photo credit edmund de waal

after writing the hare with amber eyes, de waal began enclosing his installations in vitrines, like the the vitrine that enclosed his family’s netsuke collection.  for the contemporary at waddeston exhibition that he curated in 2012, he thought of waddesdon manor, the rothschild’s 19th century country house in buckinghamshire, as a vitrine that enclosed his installations along with the waddesdon collection of fine and decorative arts.

edmund de waal | something else, somewhere other | 2012

84 porcelain vessels and bowls in white and celadon glazes contained in two freestanding vitrines

exhibited in the tower drawing room | waddesdon manor | buckinghamshire, united kingdom

photo credit edmund de waal

his current exhibition, edmund de waal:  a thousand hours, at the alan christea gallery in london from 6 october-10 november 2012, uses vitrines of vessels to define space.  de waal perceives the gallery as a vitrine that encloses two cabinets, filled with a collection of 1000 ceramic vessels.  the cabinets not only define space, but also hold time.

‘my new exhibition, a thousand hours, has at its heart a meditation on time, both the time it takes to make something, and the time it takes to see something.’

-edmund de waal

edmund de waal | a thousand hours | 2012

1000 thrown porcelain vessels, some glazed in celadon and white, some unglazed, within a pair of aluminium vitrines with transparent and translucent acrylic

exhibited at alan christea gallery | london, united kingdom

photo credits edmund de waal

how do you display your collections?

contained?

edmund de waal | remembering x, i think of y | 2012

48 unglazed porcelain vessels contained in two glass vitrines

exhibited in the archives | waddesdon manor | buckinghamshire, united kingdom

photo credit edmund de waal

or, freestanding?

edmund de waal | a sounding line | 2007

52 porcelain vessels in 5 celadon glazes and 14 thrown porcelain vessels in 5 white glazes

installation in the chose chapel corridor | chatsworth house | north derbyshire, united kingdom

photo credit edmund de waal

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