Works and Days

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Living in Clay Time In Clay Town: Kammy Chiu, Winter Fellowship for International Travel

Kammy Chiu, sophomore Economics-ENV major and recipient of the Winter Fellowship for International Travel, reflects on her residency program with The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China, learning to work with porcelain.

The Pottery Workshop

My artistic residency with The Pottery Workshop (TPW) took place in The Sculpture Factory (TSF), Jingdezhen. For just over three weeks, I thought about absolutely nothing apart from clay. Three other international residents accompanied me during my time at TPW: Edith, an Israeli artist who specializes in painting porcelain tiles, Alberto, arguably one of the most knowledgeable mold-makers in the US who’s about to finish his MFA at Syracuse University, and Josh, another Reedie who introduced me to ceramics a year and a half ago.

Learning to Let Go: A Ceramics Residency at The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China: Josh Tsang, Winter Fellowship for International Travel

Josh Tsang, sophomore chemistry major and recipient of the Winter Fellowship for International Travel, reflects on his time in Jingdezhen, China, completing an artistic residency in Chinese ceramics.

Despite being safely at home in Portland, and having almost no school or work obligations, I still feel as if I am at the mercy of the external world. I have just completed an artistic residency at ‘The Pottery Workshop’ in Jingdezhen, China – a ‘small’ (for China) town known as the birthplace and capital of porcelain – and I have never felt so inexperienced in ceramics (not even when I first started making pottery 7 years ago). This isn’t because I haven’t learned anything or made progress in my work, but because everything I knew about how art and pottery works in North America was thrown on its head in Jingdezhen. That’s why I’ve titled this post “Learning to Let Go” because literally everything I knew, from producing work – the throwing, glazing, firing processes – to the conceptual idea of ceramic art was thrown out the window. I was starting from scratch.

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My Teacher: Tai Chi in China, Ian Connelly, Winter Fellowship for International Travel 2015

Ian Connelly, senior Chinese major and recipient of the Winter Fellowship for International Travel, reflects on his time in Beijing, China, practicing Tai Chi. 

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My teacher’s name is Zhong Zhenshan. He comes from Handan in Hebei province, about 5 hours south of Beijing. He began studying taijiquan with his master Yao Jizu when he was thirteen years old and now he is one of the foremost lineage holders of Wu family style. He’s participated in many competitions, symposiums, and exhibitions both domestically and internationally and he has students all over the world.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game...

For the first decade of my life I was raised, shall we say, sports-agnostic. My family didn't hate sports, we just paid almost no attention to the usual lot of them—basketball, football, baseball. We were a remote island from the great continent of American sporting life, and those bits of scandal-ridden sports news that did float our way were enough to keep us distant and disinterested—even disapproving.

When I was about ten though, an unexpected bridge to a wholly different continent—and a totally different sport—opened up and my family stumbled upon badminton. The truth is my dad had a Chinese girlfriend at the time and she introduced the sport to him.

As the story goes, my dad, knowing that his girlfriend liked the sport, bought a cheap two-racket-plastic-bird-volleyball-net badminton set and presented it to her one summer day. She promptly laughed. “That's not real badminton,” she said. Wondering what she could have meant by this, my dad decided to bring her to our local junior college, knowing it offered open-gym play for just a few dollars. There my fit, well-coordinated dad proceeded to get clobbered by girlfriend and company. He took big hammer-swings at the bird, but it was no use—he looked like a fool to the delight of his more skilled opponents. But he relished the challenge, committed to playing at least once a week, improved his technique, and soon brought myself and my brother along to play as well. In no time it was our weekly tradition.

“??????????” (“They'll play games, you do footwork.”?

Bas-relief of badminton player.

Those words more or less capture the story of my life for the past several weeks.

I am here at Beijing Sports University, staying in the international students dorm, waiting and writing as my clothes dry. I have no drying rack and the dorms have no dryers, so I've improvised a little bit with the curtain rods hanging around the window.

The room is nice. And the conspicuous absence of a dryer in these otherwise well-outfitted dorms is normal for Chinese colleges and households—where clothes hanging outside rooms is the rule and not the exception. You can bet that even if a Chinese person had a dryer, and all the money in the world to use it, many of those clothes would still be stubbornly hung up for Mother Nature to do her thing. Call it frugality mixed with convention, plus a dash of environmentalism Dorm room and hanging clothes.for those looking for it.

Through the window I see the red-brick, white-trim facade of the adjacent student dorm block. In a way almost reminiscent of Reed, these red bricks adorn most all of BSU's buildings, giving them dignified uniformity. But unlike our Eliot Hall's Gothic crown, these buildings are garnished with everything from Greco-Roman colonnades (a nice nod to the school's Olympic enthusiasm, I thought!), to elaborate futurist super-structures, to the traditional Chinese roof, with its signature corner-curl. Gymnastics hall. Overall the campus sports a comfortable ambiance and beauty, and I've come to love it here. Huge trees and nature diversions line the university's main roads. Outside tennis, volleyball and basketball courts abound. Bronze statues of athletes in-the-act are dedicated outside training halls (although much to my chagrin, I have yet to find the badminton statue). And of course, a great white Statue of Chairman MaoChairman Mao greets all those who enter.

Phase 1

Robert Swinhoe

John Young '15, environmental sciences/history, was awarded a President's Summer Fellowship to "travel to and collect consular records from the British National Archives, the Royal Geographical Society, and the Natural History Museum in London, and then return to Reed in order to analyze and further chart the collecting habits and practice of natural history of the ornithologist Robert Swinhoe (1836-1877)."

Professor Douglas Fix tells me that one should have an excellent idea of what collections an archive holds long before one arrives at the archive’s reading room. A visit to collect documents, a perhaps seemingly pedestrian task, requires a large measure of pre-visit prep work. 

More than I anticipated. 

White Net Under a Red Flag: A First Look at one of China's Most Popular Sports

If you have been watching the World Cup, or keep tabs on any other sport, it should come as no surprise that sports play a very meaningful roles in our lives in the 21st century. Here is a PSF project about a sport you may have never thought seriously about, but which is ubiquitous across Asia and especially in China.

"Everybody is crazy about badminton here," my new friend says as we sit along side East China Normal University's badminton courts. His name is Varun and he is an Indian graduate student who started playing badminton when he matriculated to ECNU two years ago. Varun plays with the Chinese regulars at the gym almost every day, and knows most everyone here. "I never played in India, although it's quite popular there," he tells me. "But now," he says with a smile on his face, "I'm addicted."

What Varun said about ECNU's badminton craze is not hard to see when we look out in front of us. It is Wednesday late afternoon and most of the gym's eight courts are full. And this isn't counting the five courts in the adjacent gym, or the school’s small indoor stadium, which features eight courts. The stadium isn't always open, and the gym isn’t always as full as it is now, but I can put it this way: I have never come here and not seen at least a handful of people playing. At peak times it can be hard to find an open court at all—players need to pay for their court time and join a queue.