Fujian natives, the elder brother saved up a modest sum after a few years of high-risk high-pay coal mining in the North. Last year, he came to Jingdezhen to study under a traditional local master. At a village home he rents just outside of JIngdezhen, he learned how to build a kiln, shape cups, and paint teaware. For the first few months of his new enterprise the Master in question even lived with him full time, guiding him through several rounds of wood fired tea ware production. Now assisted by his brother, he feels well established but far from a master himself.
The Lai Brothers produce traditional shapes with more modern styles. Here you will find eggshell cups without Qinghua patterning and Gaiwans without the gaudy yellow, pink, or teal paint that defined last century’s export market. Their cups’ appearance follow the style in vogue now: slightly random patterns created by mixing and overlapping glazes. They also have shown some creativity. Rather than throw away the “sick” cups that emerge from 60 hour wood firing, they have done their best to turn what is usually trash into their most valuable products, painted cups. Employing careful skill, images of flowers, landscape images, and supernatural creatures are produced on these modest canvasses. The Older Lai Brother can turn a chip into a canyon, a black burn mark into a devil’s pupil, and rough scratches into a white lily.