1. ***Almost an Exodus: MANY FULLY-HANDMAKING CRAFTSMEN had left in the past two years, to join the Jigger-machining factories because the bosses at these plants are paying them $1500-$2000 each a month. For the sake of a) higher income, b) easy-ness of work, and c) income stability. There is no way one would refuse the offer to join them for the above 3 reasons.
You have seen in our previous post: how much income a FHMaking ZiSha Craftsman earns a month...only $1000, from the calculations we had elucidated and brought to light in the previous article. This income is not stable, they are self-employed and some months such a Craftsman may go with either A) the whole batch of hard-worked pots coming out of the kiln cracked or deformed (much more often than we thought), B) many pots left unsold to the retailers. C) The Craftsmen also had to work through the whole process: upfront investment and payment for bricks of clay (incurring inventory cost at their own end), pounding the slab, making the pot, all the parts, refining, monitoring at the kiln, taking them out from the kiln, checking, from start to finish.
However by joining the factories. They:
1) earn a monthly, stable employed income of $1500-$2000,
2) each of them who joined will just be in charge of one part: after the non-skilled worker brings out the mass produced jiggered pots from the machines and moulds, he passes it to Craftsman A who fixes on the spout onto the Jigger-machined main body. After it is done, Craftsmen A passes it on to Craftsman B who fixes on the handle, and then passing on to Craftsman C who fixes on the lid knob. It is a production line.
3) they report to work, and go home, with no inventory cost, work is very simple. But they will slowly lose their FHM skill which they had acquired in the past. They gradually lose their competency and the total Art of making a Fully-Handmade ZiSha pot.
There are very FEW honest and committed Craftsladies and Craftsmen LEFT NOW in YiXing, and this group is getting less and less by the day.
It is just so difficult to fight the ubiqituous Jigger-Jolly-machined, fake ZiSha pots permeating and perpetrating almost the entire market and industry now. This JJM industry is very lucrative.
Workers from the neighboring provinces, are coming over to YiXing to jump on the bandwagon, reap the "benefits" as well, due to the proliferation of such Jigger-machining factories and production facilities, employment and good pay.
Jigger-machined pots of course, can never be made of ZiSha. With the advancement in technology and processes, and their sheer speed of their production lines, they have obliterated HHM pots and slip-casted pots almost all, from the market. They are advancing the technology of Jigger-machined pots month by month. They are, cheap to manufacture. Each "pot" 's cost price is only $20-$30 and usually flipped 4 to times to $80-$300. Simpler Ornate pots may even be made from moulds (in-to-outwards vector pressed). They have even cracked the code of making Polygonal pots out from a Jigger-machining process! Of course these machined Polygonal pots do not have the adjoining seams on the inside, plus, other indicators.
For example, in a Square Jigger-machined pot, because it is made from one singular piece of Ceramic clay (and not five pieces), A) there is no adjoining seam on the periphery of the base slab with the four side slabs, and B) there is no adjoining seam between the four side slabs. But then again, they can try to fake it by cutting into it and brushing over this "seam". Faking the seams would take time, and time is money. This faking effort will eat into the time and opportunity costing, and thus some factory bosses would not ask his workers and employed Craftsmen to craft in such fake indicators. But there are some who will.
2. *** 工艺师 Artists using 代工 Dai Gong (DG) workers - nontruthful works made not by the Artists but by other replacement workers.
FACT: NOW, MORE THAN 60% OF L1 RESEARCH LEVEL SENIOR MASTERS AND L2 SENIOR MASTERS HAVE TURNED TO THE DARK SIDE AND REGRETTABLE PATH OF THE DAI GONG TOTALLY CHEATING INDUSTRY.
HOW it works:
Oligarch K buys over the “stamp/seal”, the copyright, of the L2 and even many L1 Artists, pay them $200k a year. K also hires some relatively skilled workers. These workers will be making the pots, but stamping the L1/L2 Artist's seal on the pots. K commands this EMPLOYED L1/L2 Artist to sit in the studio, and be in charge of taking photos with customers and other marketing work. Customers are duped into thinking that the pots they bought, are indeed made by this said Artist. (This L1/L2 Artist would occasionally make 1 or 2 pots a month "to fill it in" and have some semblance of believability: the showcase cabinet contains 48 pots made by the DG-workers, and 2 pots made by the L1/L2 Artist).
Replacement works afflict mostly L1 and L2 Masters. A few Grand Masters are participating in it too.
We start from these facts: there is a fixed cost for making pots, we call, 公价 Gong Jia. For example, the Gong Jia in making a Jing Zhou Shi Piao is higher than making a Fang Gu, and the Gong Jia for making a Si Ting is much higher than making a Ju Lun Zhu. These are the FHM fraternity’s recognised standards.
Very importantly, moving on from this Foundation Logic, and to be easily inferred and deduced from it:
When you buy pots from L4 Artists, there is much less likelihood for a L4 Artist to cheat using DG workers, because in any case, L4‘s works (with all due respect) do not fetch very high prices, and thus there is: no point, no monetary incentive, for an L4 Artist or L3 Artist to pay a highly-skilled worker $400-600 to make a difficult pot (needing 5 days labour work) for him, because the pot is sold to customers for $600-$1000 => This L4 Artist might as well make the pot himself. Case in point: in contrast, the dishonest Oligarchs pay a DG worker $800 for each pot made, and then oass it over and have the hired L1/L2 Artist sell the pot as “being made by the L1 / L2 Artist” at $4000. $4000 - $800 = $3200. Oligarch makes money from such ventures. There are many in the market now. Be VERY, VERY CAREFUL. Train your eyes to recognise highly skilled works that can only be made by L1/L2 Artists. DG-works are usually simpler and/or have goose-pimples- inducing designs and embellishments.
Not only do DG-works generally have surfacing, lines and features that reek of poorer aesthetics, they can even be JIGGER-Machined. Sad, but true. Ten years ago when DG ventures started appearing, the initial DG-works were still Fully-Handmade by the DG-workers. NOW these ventures stooped to new lows: they used jigger-machined non-zisha pots and do some touch-ups. All VERY EASY. Very bad news to the industry. When various oligarchs each with their owned "signed" L1/L2 Artists are fighting the PRICE WAR with one another, they WILL eventually STOOP to the lowest level: PRODUCING JIGGER-MACHINED NON-ZISHA POTS and stamped "L1/L2 Artist", sold as a "Fully Handmade, L1/L2 Artist stamped pot". There are many people who had thrown in thousands of dollars into each pot, filling up the cabinet at home with at least a million dollars worth of DG-items but their owners are still unaware. And nobody dare break the news to them. These people have a term to them: 国宝帮 Guo Bao Bang. Baidu explains this term succinctly.
Below is an example of one of many proliferant DG-work. This DG-pot is Jigger-machined with some manual touch-ups. This "L1 pot" is NOT EVEN MADE OF ZISHA! The cost price of such a pot is less than $100, selling price is $4000. Upon examination, the pot shows up easily four indicators of its "unhealthy" backgrounds. The L1 Artist even has the cheek to take the photo with the pot to acknowledge it. Marketing done to hoax and deceive.
As the Artists climb the hierarchy, their proper works become more challenging to be made, and take on higher difficulty e.g. this refinement and sense of aesthetics are obvious and cognizant to the learned Connoisseurs, the Museum Curators, the Professors of Arts. On the contrary, DG-works manifest features and embellishments that are at best awkard to look at, at worst goose-pimply/even disturbing, the aura feels forced/amateurish at best.
SOLUTION: Everyone of us needs to be USED to seeing many good PROPER and truthful pots made by the honest artists and Great Masters' works of the past. LOOK DEEPLY into them. Handle them if possible, understand the 1) higher aesthetics involved, 2) all the finer curves, extremely detailed subtle curves that speak volumes: when viewed macroscopically from afar to give the pot much coherency and comfort to the eyes, when viewed microscopically shock you with the extreme difficulty to craft such subtle curves and lines, and 3) the inherent great skills involved in crafting up the pot. Your eyes will be armed, you will naturally click into it such that when you come up to any ZiSha work in the future, you are able decipher this as A) a TRUE high level work done by an L2 or L1 Artist or genius works by superb L4, L3., OR, you will B) recognise it to be of some simple craftwork / too flamboyant / naive work with designs made out to imbue an unnecessarily high level of “Orientalism” so as to confuse/cheat untrained prospects. These helpless prospects are at the mercy then of the dishonest. Newcomers to the ZiSha Art are often cheated into DG-works ubiquitous in the market, because they wish to be seen by their peers to be playing "into a high level of Oriental aesthetic beauty". Even old-timers for thirty years who have been mixing in the wrong company of acquaintances, who have been looking at all the DG-works, continue year in year out buying up such DG-works and filling up their whole cabinets full of 1000 pots, costing 2- 3 million dollars. These unfortunate collectors are called Guo Bao Bang 国宝帮 "National Treasure Clan" because they talk much about "aura", but without the ability to decipher good, properly- and highly-skilled works.
We say, an eighteen year old high school student, who owns a $200 Fully-Handmade ZiSha pot, beats out many such Guo Bao Bang collectors each holding onto $2 million dollars worth of "Grand Masters works".
3. *** High-end forgeries
This is simple to explain: such high end industries get hold of the actual pieces, and 3D scan them, make the 3D imprints, make the moulds “stampers” to re-craft up the renown work.
The high-end forgery industry have many forged Grand Masters works plying the Auction houses and being sold as "Authentic" every month
There are established references in the industry. For example, the only recognised Authenticator person for the late 汪寅仙 Wang Yin Xian’s works, is Wang Yin Xian’s son, Yao Zhi Yuan 姚志源 (himself, an L1 Artist and JiangSu Provincial Grand Master of Ceramic Arts). The only recognised Authenticator person for the late Jiang Rong’s work, is her adopted daughter, Jiang Yi Hua 蒋艺华 (an L1 Artist herself). For current living Grand Masters, the honest ones (not involved in the DG industry), the authenticator will be the Artist himself, e.g. Grand Master Chen Guo Liang, Grand Master Shao Shun Sheng. At RealZiSha, we bring our patrons to the houses of Yao Zhi Yuan, Jiang Yi Hua, Chen Guo Liang, Shao Shun Sheng, Cao Ya Lin, etc Grand Masters to verify and authenticate the pots. For our patrons who want to proceed with Gu Jing Zhou 顾景舟 pots, we bring them to the house of his Chief Disciple Ge Tao Zhong 葛陶中.
To prevent people from getting hold of the actual pieces and making 3D imprints, at the studio showcases / homes of the late Wang Yin Xian, Jiang Rong, etc, their Authenticators: be it an offspring generation or trusted disciple, will NOT allow visitors to take too many direct photos. At the patrons’ end, we just need to buy with authentication from these Fraternity’s recognised/acknowledged Authenticators.
DO NOT EVER THINK THAT if one is willing to spend bigger than the other patrons, bid higher, bid highest at any platforms, you will get an authentic pot, DO NOT EVER think that even one gets to spend $2 million on a pot "sold as Authentic" on the famous Auction Houses, one gets a true authentic pot. One can spend $300,000 but gets to own a pot that is authentic, truly verified by the recognised named, son/daughter/disciple of the late Grand Master XYZ. One can spend $2million on a pot from other sources, e.g. Auction Houses (you name it, we know them, for Yi-Lei himself as a kid grows up in the corridors of the major Auction Houses as his father brushes shoulders within the Auction industry) but yet brings home a high-forgery item "made by the late Grand Master XYZ".
For your information, do not think that works sold at Auction Houses are all authentic. Many aren’t. In fact, most aren't. (Also, as much as we respect S* and C* as the major Auction Houses in the West, they are not the experts for Chinese ZiSha. China's Jia De and Bao Li are more to be counted upon.) If one wants to bid for a piece of work during the Auction, one needs to invite, even pay and bring his own "expert" to the preview site, view the piece, and if this "expert" is confident to verify it as authentic, then would you prepare the monies and bid for it come the actual Auction Day. Upon Auction day, if one successfully bids for an item, the hammer goes, all responsibility rests on the buyer. He cannot blame the Auction House for selling an un-authentic item.
For example, VERY RECENTLY, in Hong Kong, somebody had his own expert, bidded for an item said to be a ZiSha Work made by National Grand Master of The Arts He Dao Hong, but after bringing it home and bringing one day to He Dao Hong for verification. Unfortunately, Grand Master He verifies it NOT to be his work. The buyer had bought a high-end forgery. It cost him $200,000.
So you can easily infer too:
Works shown on websites, are not the eventual ones they receive from dishonest middlemen. Whatever *even! top Chinese retailers websites, we know of them. Be very careful for:
These major dishonest middlemen receive the original from the Grand Master or L1 Artists, give some excuses to the patron who paid up, take about two weeks to 4 weeks so that they can pass original one to their own workers to make the replicas, and after 4 weeks, send the replica to the customers. These dishonest major and "established" rich middlemen keep the original.
Thereby the SOLUTION:
1…If one is able to travel to the living Artist’s home. DO that. Have the Reference Authenticator in YiXing (the Master her/himself or the designated offspring/chief disciple) see it, examine it and pass it to you.
2…If one is not able to travel to the living Grand Master or L1/L2 Artist’s home: Prior to buying the work, ask the Artist to take many photos of it, all the little details, inner walls. Upon receipt of the work, take the photos and send them to the Artist, and when having a video call with the Artist, the Artist will verify live-real time, and tell the patron that indeed the work that the patron holds, is the work that the Artist him/herself had made. *There are often 记号 :-D , secret details, "nicks and crevices" known only to the Reference Authenticators.*
Below: Not many people can get into the house and studio of the late National Grand Master of The Arts, Wang Yin Xian 国家工艺美术大师, 王寅仙, through our influential Cao Family, we can. Senior Master Cao Lan Fang 曹兰芳 and Assoc Master Zhang Ke 张轲 did this important visit on behalf of our overseas patron to transact and check the authenticity of the pots. Here are her very best. L1 Research Level Senior Master Yao Zhi Yuan 姚志源 who is the spiritual successor and Authenticator for Wang Yin Xian's work, attended to us:
The World Famous, Qu Hu 曲壶 "The Note" work by Wang Yin Xian, in our hands:
Below: Wang Yin Xian's Famous Wai Ba Mei Zhuang 歪把梅桩 "Angled-Handle Plum Blossom Stump" in our hands:
Below: Wang Yin Xian's Shu Chai San You 束柴三友 "Bundled Three Friends of Winter":
Below: we visited National Grand Master of The Arts 国家工艺美术大师, Cao Ya Lin 曹亚麟, for the transaction and verification of his work:
Below: we visited L1 Research Level Senior Master Jiang Yi Hua 研高 蒋艺华 for the transaction and verification of her late mother: Grand Master Jiang Rong's work:
Below: we get to verify also this Ha Ma Shi Liu Zhuang 蛤蟆石榴桩:
Below: Here we are at the home of National Grand Master of The Arts 国家工艺美术大师, He Dao Hong 何道洪:
We visited National Grand Master of Ceramic Arts 国家陶瓷艺术大师, Chen Guo Liang 陈国良 at his home for the transaction and verification of his famous Xi Gua 西瓜 work. Here, you can see him in the background talking to us:
He is our good neighbour and he also buys clay from our Cao Family stocks.
We have had many more authentication visits for our patrons. All very personal and heartwarming. Let us enjoy the journey.
4. *** The Situation of Ben Shan Lü Ni 本山绿泥。
The YiXing authorities had closed the excavation and mining activities in yr 2003, re-opened in yr 2010, and closed them again in yr 2015, until now with no further notice.
Whatever is left out there now, is precious.
Because of the extremely limited Ben Shan LüNi, many clay stockists have begun MIXING BSLN WITH DUANNI in ratios e.g. 20-80, 50-50, 70-30, etc. After which, these clay stockists sell these bricks “as 100% BSLN”. Oft-times, even Artists and Craftsmen may be in the dark / cannot tell a pure BSLN brick from a brick of 70%BSLN-30%DN mix.
What if it is 70-30 or 80-20, they may not know. But in any case, they are duped as long as it is not 100% BSLN.
THEREFORE starting in the past year especially:
The honest Craftsmen, being committed to honesty, have to PREVENT themselves from buying BSLN clay to make pots. They stick to ZiNi, HongNi and DuanNi types. (Exception is when the Craftsmen or Artists are the clay miners~stockists themselves and are reputable in name).
Honest retailer generally too, had stopped selling BSLN pots.
So the conundrum and situation now is that, if one were to have 100% confidence of getting a BSLN pot, starting in 2022:
One can only rely on an Artist or renowned Craftsman, to buy a brick of BSLN from Huang Long Yuan (the cheapest starts from 30,000rmb per brick) with their strict use enforced and under the scrutiny of the ZiSha Association. Sold pots can be analysed by the YiXing Authority Material Scientists to check for their authenticity referenced from their own samples, and if any Artist or Craftsman is caught misusing the stickers, e.g. pasting the stickers on Certificates for pots that are not authentically made from the Nationally authenticated, Huang Long Yuan reference stocks, => the authorities will catch such Craftsmen or Artists misusing the stickers on pots not made from HLY BSLN pots.
If one is very familiar with the Artist, one can still proceed to buy a BSLN work from his or her favourite trusted Artist, who is a clay miner~stockist himself.
5. *** CHE YI DAO Zhu Ni 车一刀 朱泥壶 pots.
This is the latest trend now in “FHM ZhuNi pots”. Be very, very, very warned. This new technology and process was invented and started in the past year.
This is a short-cut process in making “FHM ZhuNi pots”. There is no problem with the clay: it is authentic ZhuNi clay. The Problem, only issue is that there is not much skill involved in making the main body. And it NOT to be considered a Fully-Handmade pot.
How it works with CHE YI DAO: The worker will cut out the main rectangular slab of ZhuNi, and round it up and join the two ends.
This worker is not properly skilled, he doesn’t know how to paddle the main body into a beautiful, EVEN, balanced shape.
He will ROUGHLY coax the rounded up slab into shape, and then:
WAHLAH, take out the circular, revolving cutter, and shave/cut the outer surface into a perfect circular shape.
Understandably, and friends: BIG CLUE: the slab has to be thicker than usual so as to account for the outer-surface revolving cutter.
THERE IS luckily, still hope:
With experience you will notice that such Che Yi Dao Zhu Ni pots, have their walls usually THICKER and NOT REGULAR/even in thickness throughout the wall 360deg. The rounded wall is NOT EVEN IN THICKNESS. The outer surface may be perfectly circular, but if you run your fingers around (pinch your right thumb from the outside and your right index finger on the inside, with your left hand holding the pot and turning it around, YOU WILL NOTICE that the thickness is not even throughout the 360degrees.
Therefore, if you can first get past the countless, hundred thousands of ubiquitous fake ZhuNi pots which are actually Jigger-machined non-ZiSha non-ZhuNi pots, your next step IS TO manoeuvre past these authentic ZhuNi pots but made in VIA the Che Yi Dao process and NOT of the actual proper FHMaking process by skilled Craftsmen. These are authentic ZhuNi pots, but made from Che Yi Dao process by workers.
INSIST on FHM ZhuNi pots that are relatively THIN-walled, and EVENLY so, because in Che Yi Dao processed pots the workers have to start with a THICK rounded piece of slab.
This Che Yi Dao, this short-cut process, can currently only be applied to ZhuNi pots and not ZiNi nor DuanNi pots, because ZhuNi clays are inherently, innately the pastiest in consistency and CAN BE SUBJECTED to the revolving Che Yi Dao cutter. ZiNi and DuanNi at present cannot be subjected to the cheating Che Yi Dao process as YET.
6. ***The ubiqituous Fake Tian Qing Ni pots sold everywhere.
As an adjunct to the previous first Post posted three months ago titled "Actual Landscape at YiXing, Ground Zero: The Honest but Struggling, the hyped up, the myths, the misinformation, the threat from ubiquitous machined pots, the Monies, the Uphill Fight against forgeries and imitations", with the brief and objective facts of Yuan Kuang Da Hong Pao 原矿大红袍 and Tian Qing Ni 天青泥, the following is to ADD to your knowledge of Tian Qing Ni.
Again, if you can first get past the countless, hundred thousands of ubiquitous fake ZhuNi pots which are actually Jigger-machined non-ZiSha pots, your next step IS TO manoeuvre past these authentic ZiSha pots but made of Da Shui Tan Zi Ni and not of Tian Qing Ni.
Da Shui Tan Zi Ni is a legitimate, proper, good Zi Ni. However they are sold as "Tian Qing Ni" pots everywhere.
Da Shui Tan Zi Ni and Tian Qing Ni come from the SAME quarry. They are highly similar in appearance: both have the grayish-purplish hue. Almost all authentic ZiSha pots sold as "Tian Qing Ni", are actually made of Da Shui Tan Zi Ni. Yes, authentic Da Shui Tan Zi Ni pots with the distinctive purplish-hue just like the Tian Qing Ni, being sold as "Tian Qing Ni" pots.
Below here: this is a DaShuiTan ZiNi pot on the left, and a rare, real TianQingNi pot on the right: Notice their extreme similarity!!! Both have the purplish-gray hue. The Da Shui Tan Zi Ni pot on the left was sold at its rightful price of $193 (Xiao Ying 笑樱) to a collector, and the Tian Qing Ni pot on the right (San Zhu Shuang Quan 三竹双圈, L3 Master Artist Zhang Ye), is sold at $2350 to our collector from Abu Dhabi. No crazy mark ups. Proper works at proper prices.
Do not chase Tian Qing Ni pots. If you really wish to, it is difficult, and in fact, close to impossible,
Reason being: because EVEN Huang Long Yuan 黄龙源 company, which is the only company with Nationally-Authenticated ZiSha clays, DOES NOT STOCK any Tian Qing Ni !!!
As it goes, if you really wish to acquire a Tian Qing Ni work, you must procure one made by an honest Artist reputable in YiXing (not involved in the ubiquitous DaiGong work as exemplified in point number 3). Be careful, there are currently MANY Artists (even several renowned Grand Masters and many famous L1 Artists) involved in Dai Gong work done by replacement workers, even a couple of National Grand Masters of the Arts. Again, we shall not name them. Many L1 and L2 Artists have fallen prey: they are guaranteed $200k per year to work under these oligarchs, it is difficult for them NOT to take the easy way out a.k.a. RETIRE comfortably, after struggling many years to climb the ladder and ranks. When money rules over the head, the Mission is thrown out of the window.
Together, we will keep ahead,
and may we do our part to safeguard this Art, safe-keep our Fully-Handmade ZiSha pots for the future generation, and safely continue our age-old tea journey.
Below shown is one of the very few priceless, authentic Yuan Kuang Da Hong Pao works, made by Senior Master Cao Lan Fang, for a Curator who will be subsequently donating this work to one of the top Museums in the world, with proper provenance.