Yoseka Stationery

Yoseka Ceramics Ink Series - Qing Yan Zhi Red

Produced in collaboration with Ink Institute and ceramic artist Li Yan Xun, our Yoseka Ceramics Ink Series showcases 8 unique colors inspired by ceramic glazes from the Yuan, Ming, Tang, Qing, and Song Dynasties, spanning 10 centuries of Chinese color and history. We worked closely with Li to select these 8 colors from his Yan Cai color project, in which he used chemical experimentation to revive the formulas of over 60 historical glazes, to represent the brilliant and splendid history of Chinese ceramics.

The formula of this carmine red glaze incorporates a small amount of gold pigment, which is so sensitive to heat that it can totally change the red’s darkness – ceramic artisans took advantage of the fickle nature of this glaze to create varying shades, from “carmine purple” to “carmine water.” The original glaze was imported from Europe to China at the end of the Kangxi Emperor’s reign during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). Working with this glaze required a high level of expertise and care. For example, the Kangxi Emperor was adamant that imperial wares that were glazed with this carmine red achieved a specifically “royal” shade, even if that meant artisans had to fire each piece several times. Because there were few kilns dedicated to serving the imperial appetite for this carmine red glaze, these wares were known even at the time to be rare imperial porcelain. Over the following dynasties, the glaze became less and less popular due to its production cost and excessive crafting process; therefore, specific shades of carmine red are unique to the Qing Dynasty.

Qianlong-era enameled carmine red bowl with butterfly motif (ca. Qing Dynasty [1644-1912])
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, US

About Li Yanxun: Li Yan Xun is a ceramic artist and the founder of the Yanshan Art Museum  in Jingdezhen, China. Hailing from a family of ceramic artists, he received formal training at the renowned Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute before starting his own ceramics studio. In addition to inheriting the “watercolor glaze” techniques pioneered by his father, Li Xiaocong, Li Yan Xun spent almost a decade researching and cataloguing the glaze pigments used in Jingdezhen during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Experimenting with chemical methods like glaze reduction tests and pure reagent analyses, he revived more than 60 historic glazes and documented each formula. Through this color project, titled Yan Cai, Li pursues the notion that an artist can be involved in every phase of their art-making process, from the development of the medium, to the physical craftsmanship, to the firing and completion of the object.

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