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Mini Porcelain 9

The Art Of Using The Bamboo Knive

During the time when softer clays and clays with less chamotte were introduced in China, the great artists would carve their works into the almost leather-hard clay.

They created the tools for this themselves using bamboo. Hart metal points and pens would leave blurry grooves and traces in the clay; conical-shaped bamboo tools are better suited and result in a soft, clear image.

Here are two small porcelain pots using a very rare technique of underglaze graving.

Front view - size: 8 cm x 6,5 cm x 6 cm - China

Side view

They were masters of their craft, and the pictures they created in the clay look like painted with a brush. The trademark of these artisan potters were clear, fine lines, a certain drive, buoyancy and energy, and their art of carving clay was never matched in the West.

Rear view


Side view

Carving or cutting the raw pots is still a widespread decoration technique. The surface to be decorated needs to be very smooth and without impurities or coarse chamotte particles. The tools are diverse - large or small, broad or fine, blunt or sharp bamboo knives or instruments. These bamboo instruments will remove the clay more softly and tenderly than metal tools, and they won't leave any fringed grooves, which makes the three-dimensionality of the motives stand out particularly well.

Front view - size: 8,5 cm x 8,5 cm x 6,8 cm - China


Side view

The motive was carved into the soft clay, then the pot was dried and fired for a first time. After the first firing the engraved picture was rubbed with a glaze colour and wiped afterwards, so that only traces of the colour remained on the motive and emphasized it. In the next step the small pots were covered with a transparent glaze and fired for the second time.

Rear view

Side view

These two pots, even if they are small, are real masterpieces.


Peter Krebs

Photographs: Peter Krebs

Pots from the collection of Paul Lesniewicz.

Translation: Stefan Ulrich

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