Recently "Tenmoku" glaze has increasingly drawn the attention of pottery circles, with many producers trying to develop a variety of glazes. Liang-yang Shao has spent half of his life tirelessly experimenting and playing an active role in the boundless field of Tenmoko glaze. He appears comfortable and satisfied, but also filled with endless curiosity.
Dedicated to Research for over 20 Years
Tenmoku glaze is a rare colored glaze developed early in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Then, the iron-oxide-containing black ceramic glaze was mainly produced in two kilns: Jizhou of Jiangxi province and Jian'an of Fujian province. Through his dedicated research over the past 20 years in the mysterious and dynamic field of iron oxide crystallization, Shao has been exploring a great variety of changes and possibilities. With more perseverance and confidence than anyone else in the field, Shao has achieved remarkable accomplishments with every step.
In sunshine or reflecting light, a Tenmoku glazed porcelain bowl may give off unexpected hues: from eye-catching crystal flecks resembling trickling stars to colorful foam. The colors from the bowl are distinctive and wonderful. It is because of these unrepeated scenes and a sense of freshness that Shao can test this glaze thousands of times with great interest. Despite trials and setbacks, the moment he sees his "warm bread" emerge from the kiln, Shao watches the crystal and structural changes in in some aspects and imperfect in others. It is perfect, because it features carefully created crystallization. Even the inevitable defects represent a type of beauty. It is imperfect, because Tenmoku glaze can be just like an unexplored mine, which may provide huge reserves of treasure as long as you continue digging."
Through his long and persevering research, Liang-yang Shao has become proficient in the various colors of the glaze. He is firmly determined to try his best to release new discoveries every three years at events or regular exhibitions, each with some attraction, creativity, and implication. His first personal exhibition at Taichung Cultural Center in 1996 was well-received for the "Beauty of Oil-Dripping Tenmoku Glaze." In the following years, he also promoted several other personal exhibitions including "The Beauty of partridge-Spotted Tenmoku Glaze" and "The Beauty of Oil-Dripping or Crab-Eyed Tenmoku Glaze," at which he showcased his progressive finding in Tenmoku glaze colors to extremely positive feedback. In particular, his 2004 large-scale exhibition remains a key milestone in his career, showcasing his Tree-leaf Tenmoku produced over a seven year period.
Distinctive Tree-leaf Tenmoku
For Liang-yang Shao, his creations, which range from Tenmoku in the images of: hawks-bill turtle, partridge-spot, crab-eye, oil-dripping, rabbit-hair, falling cut-paper flower, to tree-leaf, represent breakthroughs that have come after numerous setbacks. Every ceramic bowl carries nearly one thousand years of tradition since the Song Dynasty, showcases the craftsman's accomplishments, and visualizes the philosophy of "food offered by God. "They are the result of favorable objective and subjective factors--climate, location, and harmony. He modestly attributes all his successes to the appropriate combination of glaze color, technology, Tenmoku ceramic bowl structural motifs, and even the "deity of the earth" for providing the best clay. Particularly for the Tree-leaf Tenmoku in which 400 pieces are fired to create a single success, thick-texture, natural tree leaves are selected. Every piece with the tree leaves can be heterogeneous in quality such as its vein or mesophyll, which may affect blending of the natural organic substances and Tenmoku glaze. The changes in the glaze varieties can be unforeseeable markers as well as part of the uniqueness of Tenmoku.
Rare and Splendid Yohen Tenmoku
The application of Tenmoku glaze is very broad. Recently Shao has improved technologies for production, ranging from simple to complicated techniques. Every variety of Tenmoku glaze has its own properties and it may be selected as desired. For instance, Hawksbill Tenmoku originated from the Jizhou kiln during the Song Dynasty. Some yellow spotted glaze is applied onto the black-jam colored, rough surface, causing changes in color, from light to dark, just like a sea turtle. While oil-dripping Tenmoku series shifts from monochromatic to colorful crystallized glaze, the Rabbit-hair Tenmoku series shifts from monochromatic to colorful crystallized glaze, the Rabbit-hair Tenmoku series leaves tiny grains on the surface due to a liquid phase separation of the glaze solution. This is the result of a high temperature flow of molten glaze fluid, devitrification, and crystallization. As for the Tree-leaf Tenmoku series, it is also representative of the Jizhou kiln. By placing natural tree leaves on the bottom of a black-glazed tea bowl, a clear and vivid tree vein is impressed after burning. The process is similar to that of the "cut paper flower" series of the same kiln.
A crucial year for Mr. Shao was 2008. In addition to advancing his "Multi-tree-leaf burning" Tenmoku series, he produced the most difficult and demanding Yohen Tenmoku, which first appeared during the Song Dynasty. This series depends on glaze coloring, thickness of the glaze solution, and temperature. Given the three major factors, a kiln may also introduce unpredictable variables, which makes the series especially valuable. In addition, Yohen refers to obsidian, a kind of luminous rock. It is internally hard and heavy, which makes it impossible to directly observe changes. Instead, external sunlight is necessary to appreciate the beauty of the crystal. Although it may look quite ordinary at first glance, as long as a light source is available, it can give off bluish-purple light like that of the starlit sky. It can be so colorful, resplendent, and profound that one is reluctant to set it down.
Special Taste with Tenmoku Tea Sets
For a tea drinker, infusing tea in a Tenmoku glazed bowl provides a new type of experience. Tea drinkers can choose such bowls at will, based on emotional state or mood. Although the glaze colors are abstract, they may correspond with the mental state of the tea taster. An individual can select different glaze colors that match the tea, depending on his or her mood. Shao himself prefers a tea bowl with ice-cracked grains in spring; he enjoys the feeling of oil-dripping in summer; he selects a tree-leaf veined tea bowl in autumn; and he drinks aged tea using gaiwans in winter, in a partridge-spotted or the profound Yohen series bowl. After half a century, he has come to have an in-depth understanding of the Buddhist meaning and aesthetic values in Tenmoku tea ware. At the same time, he would take the opportunity to express his sincere gratitude to his wife Chen Wanjun who performs various tasks to help him produce his creations including processing and polishing. In other words, Tenmoku bowls are filled with boundless care and love.
Tenmoku glaze can always bring rich experience for Shao, thanks to his addition of new elements and the indeterminate kiln changes. He tries to create an overlapping or three-dimensional experience on to the level plane of glaze color, actively exploring how to showcase a variety of Tenmoku utensils and allow the glaze handed down from ancient time to reflect the aesthetics of modern life. In his pursuit of the highest realm of the Yohen series, Shao has broadened his horizon, strengthened his vitality, and found pleasure in the lifelong study and exploration of the unknown possibilities in all the Tenmoku series.
Shao will exhibit his "Yohen Tenmoku series" at the Historical Museum in July this year, will also re-edit his masterpieces from 1989 to showcase various and colorful Tenmoku glaze creations, I am sure this will be a marvelous visual and sensory experience.
1952 bom in Tsdpei;
1985 founded a studio for specialized development o Tenmoku glaze;
1992 selected among the excellent exhibitors for 4th Fine Art Exhibition at TaipeiCcmmy;
1993 selected to participate in 1st Taiwan Industrial Art Designing;
1994 selected to participate in 49th Provincial Fine Art
1995 selected to participate in 6th Biennial Pottery Art Exhibition at the Natioual Historica Museum
1996 Joint Exhibition of National Pottery Art at Taiwm Art Museum Personal Exhibition of the Beauty of Tenmoku at Taichung City Cultural Center
1999 Personal Exhibition of the Beauty of Partridge-spotted & Oil-dripping Tenmoku at Taichung City Cultural Center
2004 Themed release of Tree-leaf Tenmoku at Taichung City Cultural Administration 2006 Personal Exhibition of Yohen Tenmoku at Kaohsiung City Cultural Administration Center
2009 Publication of the pictorial A Wonder of Glaze in History