Year 3 – Subject PDP

It seems like a long journey has come to an end but actually a new journey is beginning for all of us. I believe it will be even more exciting and challenging.

In retrospect, it seems that the first two years were my introduction course and the third year was when I really felt that I had found my direction in that for the future I would like to focus on ceramics.

I felt I benefited a lot from the education system of the university.  In my first year, I did not fully recognise the value of the modules as I felt that we were sidetracked into too many areas which detracted from my main subject. However, I am learning to appreciate it and have found that doing research is essential before starting a project. I feel I am very fortunate as I have been provided with nutritional ground for my growth. I can get valuable advice from professional tutors, technicans and lecturers as they make time to advise us when we need them as well as the college providing the materials, facilities and library. Really, I do not know how to express my appreciation in words.

Regarding my graduation work, I thought I had planned everything well beforehand however I realised you can prepare as long as you like, but things never go according to plan, one example was the clay body which has given me a huge headache, on top of that the glazes and cobalt did not come out how I expected due to the temperature change that led to my schedule falling behind. However, this meant I learned more than I expected. I got advice from fellow students, technicians and tutors. Although the experiment has not yet finished, I will continue with the tests and believe that it will benefit my next projects.

The hardest thing about doing this project was to continue developing the idea, but a lot of decisions needed to be made before it was fully realised. For example, printing the catalogue, designing my business card and writing the artist’s statement.

Painting the object with blue and white also pushed me out of my comfort zone. Even though I had practiced using cobalt, it was only on a small scale.  Covering a much bigger and curved surface with painting has a certain degree of difficulty and at the same time I needed to make my own drawings which was also a new challenge. I am quite satisfied with the outcome of this challenge. Perhaps, this is how to push the boundaries. If we do not take one step further, we will never know what result we will get.

Compared with my first year, my knowledge in using materials such as different clay bodies, glazing and firing techniques have not improved as much as I expected and I need to continue to strengthen these areas. In the process of creating the graduation work, I encountered the problems of using the porcelain and glazes as mentioned above. That took me quite a long time to overcome these issues and especially those of the clay body. I am still not very certain what caused the porcelain to turn a greyish colour. It may have originated from the clay body or something went wrong in the process. Due to the time issue, in the end I had to make the compromise of lowering the firing temperature to keep the whiteness which I wanted. However, the problems led me to understand how to use the material better.

Ceramics, brought me back to my culture, interest and self-awareness that I think is the fundamental element and root of creation. Furthermore, ceramics has lead me to other various interests such as the use of technologies to assist in the creation and different materials other than ceramics. These three years of studying have given me a clear perception about my direction in art and design. I will continue to solidify my knowledge in ceramics and in particular onglaze and underglaze painting. Meanwhile I will attempt to extend the area of study into different fields such as jewellery, using different materials and in particular employing the use of technology in my creations. Undoubtedly, technologies open up the horizon of creation. At the moment, I am focusing on using Photoshop and Illustration. Later on I would like to learn to use Rhino.

Finally, I recognize that my lack of enthusiasm in participating in activities is a weakness. That caused my involvement to diminish in certain areas. The passing away of my dearest mentor, changed the way I was. I hope I can continue to keep her optimistic and positive spirit alive and pass it on to other people. I am looking forward to finding a mentor in my area of ceramics or even another area, someone who I am able to look up to and will continue to give me advice, ideas and inspiration.



inseparable relationship

Conventional porcelain which is exquisitely decorated and the way they are displayed give a sense that they are fragile and not to be touched. Using wood gives a sense of warmth that is just right to balance the contrast with the porcelain. The idea of using wood in displaying porcelain in traditional Chinese ceramics is solely for auxiliary purpose. To increase the whole aesthetic value to the piece, it is important to enhance the relationship between these two materials. In my work the curved bottom of the object cannot stand by itself and the shelf is only an empty shelf without any meaning if the object did not exist.

To give the wooden shelves a final touch, I laser etched my Chinese name onto them on which the decorated objects would be placed.


Timeline Development

For full information of the graduation work and exhibition. Please click the following links.


Field (Exhibition)


* * * * * * * ** * * * * * * ** * * * * * * *


September to October 2015

  • Developed initial idea of the graduation work

October 2015

  • Initial idea had changed from tension to calmness expression

November 2015

  • Continue to develop ideas in terms of how to decorate the objects

graduation project

From the end of December to the beginning of February 

  • Due to focus on finishing the dissertation, the project was put on hold.


  • Inspired by Jaime Hayon, I took traditional blue and white porcelain then reassembled to form a new pattern

April 2016  

  • using my personal memories as well as these three years of studying to developed a series of illustration.
  • took a traditional technique called kai-guang, which was used by artisans in Jingdezhen since the Ming Dynasty, to create my illustration
  • changed to display the objects from plinth to hang them on the wall. The idea was inspired by the European displaying method

May 2016

  • mock installation of the objects


October 2015 – 

  • Started to conduct research, including eastern and western artists who have the same cultural background or the same creative ideas like mine such as Ai WeiWei, Ah Xian  Faig Ahmed, Wang Shu and Lu Wen Yu
  • conducting research about chinese ceramics and in particular blue and white porcelain
  • Positioning Practicelecture ran by Cath Davis

From the end of December to the beginning of February 

  • Due to focus on finishing the dissertation, the project was put on hold.
  • took the advice of the external examiner – experiment on decorating the wooden stand

From the end of January –

  • Conducted research about the exhibition in particular of how porcelain was displayed by the West and East.
  • Corridor exhibition curation
  • research – “Emulsion” exhibition by Amy Smith and Simon Levin
  • created a post for recording artists work which gave me inspiration


  • finished the exhibition proposal and continue the research for ideas for the exhibition.



September to October 2015

  • Learning traditional skills in Jingdezhen, China. Including carving, onglaze and underglaze painting.

End of October 2015

  • carried glaze tests including different types of cobalt and other underglaze colours


  • Focus on practicing blue and white painting


  • Re-made another mold which is 15% larger than the first mold

From the end of December to the beginning of February 

  • Due to focus on finishing the dissertation, the project was put on hold.


  • Refine the porcelain objects by using sandpaper of various grit in order to deliver a skin-smooth-liked texture.


  • Carried other glaze tests of which I would like to achieve an effect which is similar to Chinese ink painting to create my blue and white decoration on the object.
  • Used laser etching to decorate the wooden stand

Early March 2016

  • The porcelain did not turn white instead it was a dull greyish colour. After discussing and consulting the problems with TDs, Anne Gibbs, Claire and fellow students I carried out tests of different clay bodies and firing temperatures hoping to address the issue.


  • attened screen printing induction and finished a series of new patterns which were takern from traditional blue and white porcelain then reassembled to form a new pattern

Mid of March 2016

  • attended wood lathe turning induction

End of March 2016

  • Due to the fire temperatue had been changed the glazes I used are no longer suitable for the work. Another series of glazes test were commenced.
  • Tried to find the most appropriate temperature for firing the cobalt so that the cobalt blue can be shown at a low temperature

April 2016  

  • Developed illustration and paint it with cobalt onto the objects

End of April 

  • Making the wood stands / shelves


  • exhibition setting up – measure out the shelves position, paint the background colour and put the shelves up

Making the stands / shelves

Last term, I used ply wood to make prototypes for placing the vessels on display that I was quite happy with the result. So I continued with this idea but used a different kind of wood. Black chestnut wood gives a darker tone that I think shows much better the contrast with the objects. The rich wood grain shows off very attractive patterns from the different angles of cutting and also increases the aesthetic value.

ply wood stand
black chestnut wood

Owing to the wood not coming in the thickness I needed, I glued two pieces of wood together to attain a desire thickness.  The wood was then secured by wood clamps and left for the glue to dry overnight before turning and cut into wave shapes.

Later on, the wooden blocks needed wood filler to be applied to cover those joining lines as well as the screw marks caused by the metal brace when it was secured on the wood for lathe turning and as much time as needed allowed for the wood filler to dry. Once the wood filler dried, the wooden blocks could be sanded and any rough edges or surfaces filled.

Although after using wood stain the grain is shown better, I found that the wood retained its simple and natural beauty without using the stain.

Ceramics artists in Jingdezhen

During my visit in Jingdezhen, I was glad that I had opportunity to meet local artists, Mr. Huang Fei and Mr. Wang Xiao Lin.

Mr. Huang Fei is a self-taught artist and particularly fascinated by western art. He used to work in a tile factory as a traditional blue and white painter in Jingdezhen where he found that he wanted to break through the limitation of traditional painting and truly express himself. Then he started to experiment with his own style of painting in his free time. He combined his years’ of experience in traditional blue and white with western impressionism to create a new unique style of blue and white work.

“Home Sick” is the artist expressing his memories about the place he grew up where the beauty of nature has been integrated into a new expression.

Mr. Wang Xiao Lin who graduated from Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute. Again, the artist has been deeply affected by western art. He uses onglaze materials to create his painting on porcelain tiles. Compared with Mr. Huang, Mr. Wang’s artwork is a complete departure from the traditional style and embraces the western approach.

“Home Sick”, Huang Fei


onglaze painting by Wang Xiao Lin


Wood lathe turning induction

Basically, operating the wood lathe and using the tools (chisels) are similar to the plaster lathe but the setting up is quite different.

First of all I needed to find the centre point and used a compass to make a circle which was slightly within the edge of the block of wood. Then I mounted the wood (judge by eye) on a base brace before securing it onto the lathe. To avoid too much resistant force during the turning the excess wood needed to be removed by the ­­banding saw to give a rounded edge.

After the wood has been secured onto the lathe, we need to find the centre point of the wood then start with a gouge tool and change to use different chisels when necessary.

Gouges (rounded head tool)

Skew (with angled head) – benefit to turn into different angles

Parting tool (arrowed tip) – to separate the wood into two

General steps of turning a bowl

  • Move the tool rest into a position which is close to the wood but without touching the rest. That can be checked by manually rotating the wood
  • The tool needs to be placed on the tool rest to keep it stable while turning. The turning is moving the tool along the tool rest to and fro until the desired depth or shape is reached
  • “Dressing the wood” – trim the wood’s edge until it has a smooth-rounded edge
  • Turn the foot ring about one centimetre depth enough for a clamping tool to secure the bowl onto the lathe to turn inside later.
  • Define the shape of the bowl with various tools.
  • Refinement – sand it with 60 – 240 grit sandpaper, fine-wire-wool ball, 6 times of waxing (Carnauba wax) and polishing.
  • After waxing, the wax takes 24 hours to completely dry and you must avoid touching the surface by hand.

In plaster lathe turning, there is only one speed whereas in wood turning speed needs to be adjusted depending on different working process. In the waxing process, the speed needs to be changed to the highest setting.

Giving extra decoration to the wood before waxing, a wire tool can be used to make burn marks or to use a wood stain to colour the wood.


After meeting external examiner

Considering that the pure form and whiteness of the object are very important elements which I do not want to disturb too much, I took the advice of Mr. Andrew Livingstone to carry out experiment on decorating the stand on which an object will be placed. The purpose of decorating the stand is not only for aesthetic value but also to give direction to the audience to reflect their thought back at the object.

The idea of this intention was derived from my observation of people who reacted to the object while I placed it in my work space.  The object has been sanded 4-6 times by using sandpaper of various grit in order to deliver a skin-smooth-liked texture. This smooth texture, the curvy fullness form and the whiteness of the object convey a tactile quality which attracted people’s attention. Curiosity and imagination were also stimulated at the same time. They started to question what this object is for and how the object would be used or decorated. The object is just like a blank canvas inviting people to put in their interpretation.