As a designer of porcelain, Laura Straßer often travels to the porcelain capital Jingdezhen in China. The »white gold« was invented there over 1,000 years ago – and is still to this day produced in the city. She brings all kinds of things home from her trip: beautifully made porcelain, but also strange and curious things. Finds which she was showing in her exhibition »Back from China – Travel Diary« at Akademie Schloss Solitude.
Laura Straßer is in Jingdezhen each year mostly for four to six weeks and has a studio there. »It is some of the most focused time of the year,« she says, »since nothing distracts me there. I’m surrounded by porcelain. It doesn’t get much better.« With her exhibition, she wants to bring a piece of Jingdezhen to Germany. The very personal view of the city which she shows in her photos and finds indeed reflects what she calls the »crazy poetry« of the place. Alongside pale blue bowels, delicate brushes, and spoons, you can find amongst the exhibits broken off porcelain fingers; fragments of Mao statues, still produced to this day; as well as the group »Helping Hands.« The porcelain hands date back to the time after the Chinese cultural revolution, during which the production of porcelain in Jingdezhen was strictly regimented since, as a luxury good of an aristocratic elite, it did not fit into the political concept. New products had to be discovered, and thus they started to produce these hands, for example, which were used as a tool for the production of rubber gloves. Hundreds of these »Helping Hands« are stacked up in the alleys of Jingdezhen, as Laura recounts.
Laura is fascinated by the many small workshops and craftsmen whom she can observe at work. »Some techniques only exist there,« she says. She browses for hours at markets on her forays through the city, looks at all sorts of porcelain pieces – and packs not only whole and perfect objects into her suitcases. Since porcelain was produced for the first time in Jingdezhen 1,000 years ago – firstly for the Chinese imperial court, later also for European kings and princes – many flawed pieces have been produced. The whole city now stands on a massive 1,000-year-old pile of shards. Another wondrous story which Laura’s finds tell. As if you had »listened to a beautiful story« – that is how you should leave the exhibition.
During her time as a fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude as well, it was the location which inspired her for new projects; the result was an edition of 260 porcelain items with self-developed designs, which deal with images and scenery as well as the flora and fauna there. Indeed, animals of all kinds, which can also be found in the woods around Solitude, gambol around on the cups and plates. Leaves and flowers which she scanned as well as layouts of Solitude also served as material for her curious designs. Flying hedgehogs, moody women, foxes with fish tails – strange mythical creatures emerge from 300 designs, which she arranged as collages on the porcelain. »If someone looks at their plate at a dinner at Akademie Schloss Solitude and has to laugh or remembers a story in their head,« she has achieved everything, says the designer.
Text by Clara Herrmann