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December 11, 2009

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Art from kilns fired by wood

MOST people never consider the difference between ceramics fired in a wood kiln and those fired in an electric kiln.

But all the great Chinese porcelains and famous works of other countries were all fired in wood kilns.

Wood kilns are virtually nonexistent today because they cause air pollution and operating permits are seldom granted.

Wood-fired kilns produce works that are richer and more varied in color, more subtle in tone and translucence because of the chemical reactions caused by burning wood in the kiln, according to ceramist Luo Zinping.

Luo is the founder of Shen Kiln in Zhujiajiao, an ancient watertown in suburban Qingpu District. He is trying to promote wood kiln-fired ceramics and is applying for an operating permit.

The Second International Wood Kiln Ceramics Exhibition is under way at Shen Kiln, attracting eight artists from six countries and regions.

Thirty works are displayed ¨? plates, vases, teapots, jewelry boxes and other vessels.

"But none of them are produced here in China," Luo laments. "There is no wood kiln that has been legally approved in the country."

Because of the emphasis on environmental protection, saving forests and using clean energy, wood kilns are a thing of the past.

"That's sad," says Luo. "All those priceless antique ceramics that now under the hammer at auctions both at home and abroad come from wood-fired kilns."

Luo considers ceramics fired in wood-burning kilns to be more "profound, rich and elegant."

"Just look at the works on display ¨? the result of wood-burning chemical reaction on ceramics is very subtle."

It takes 24 hours to fire ceramics in a wood kiln but 13 hours in an electric kiln, Luo says.

"I understand that many people are concerned about air pollution caused by burning wood," says Luo. "But this problem can be solved with advanced equipment."

He notes that contemporary works on display were made in the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, among other countries that are environmentally conscious.

High-fired glazed ceramics had been developed into porcelain in the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220).

"I would hate to see this centuries-old method disappear in China," says Luo.

"Words are but wind, but the ceramics showcased here are worth a thousand words."

Date: through January 16, 9am-5pm

Address: 64 Dongjing St, near Fangsheng Bridge, Zhujiajiao, Qingpu District

Admission: 5 yuan

Tel: 5923-0327


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