About – China International Macsabal Woodfire Festival 2005

The 8th International Macsabal Wood-Fire Festival (IMWF) was held in Zibo, China, and Goesan, Korea, from July 16 through August 14, 2005. Over sixty ceramics artists participated, including artists from China, Korea, the United States (five artists), Canada (two), Greece (one), Tunisia (one), Egypt (one) and Argentina (one). Kim Yong Moon has organized all of the IMWF’s, but this is the first one held outside of Korea.

After an initial week in Goesan, Korea, the festival artists traveled to Zibo, China, where they were greeted with ceremony and speeches by local dignitaries. Zibo City and the Shandong Province, with 8000 years of ceramics history dating back to the Houli culture, are the homes to numerous ceramics factories, outstanding artists, and an excellent ceramics museum. The festival artists constructed a three-chamber, dragon kiln near the Shandong Zibo Taishan Ceramic Company factory (Lu De Guo, President). With the assistance of some local people, the kiln was completed in only one week. It will remain a permanent facility to commemorate the initial festival and future ceramic exchanges. The kiln has a 4.5-meter fire box and climbs a man-made 23-degree earthen hill. Each chamber was designed for stoking from the left side. Because of the tight schedule, after construction, we immediately began drying the kiln using a small continuous fire for three days.

In the third phase of the festival, visiting artists worked in the studio of Li Ziyuan in the Zichuan District and at the Taishan factory. Many traditional and modern ceramic works were created to be fired in the new dragon kiln. The artists enjoyed sharing their techniques, and the exchange of ideas resulted in some collaborative works being created. Some of the artists presented slides of their work.

The kiln was lit for its first firing with singing dancing and prayer. We stoked for three days, raising the temperature to approximately 1170 degrees centigrade. After nearly 3 days of cooling, we opened the kiln with great excitement to discover that the kiln gods had smiled on us. An exhibition and competition followed the firing with works displayed at the China Ceramic Museum in Zibo. 

Although we worked very hard, we also enjoyed visiting nearby Taishan Mountain, the Po SongLing Museum, the Mengquan Biological Area, and local shopping. Evenings were often spent singing, eating, and enjoying the local beer and Chinese whiskey. Mornings came too soon!

The Zibo City government/Department of Tourism and Shandong Industry Pottery Committee sponsored the festival in China with outstanding support and encouragement from Li Zujian Arts Studio and the Shandong Taishan Ceramics Co., Ltd.

We had three wonderful interpreters (Qi Jing, Xu Fengqi, and Wang Jing) translating between Chinese, Korean, and English. But many “conversations” were held using pencil and finger drawing and hand language. As ceramics artists know, the language of clay is universal.

We used three types of clay—a porcelain, a stoneware for throwing and handbuilding, and a challenging, very groggy stoneware. As expected, it took some of us a little while to become familiar with the qualities of the different clays. Our preconceived ideas of what to create were modified by the material properties and by watching each other. And, of course, the effects of firing a new kiln always add interest, uniqueness, and uncertainty.

The combination of Chinese, Korean, and Western ceramics artists working at a modern production factory using a traditional wood-fire kiln was truly a unique experience that will likely influence our work.

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