My monsters are created to be used. I like the idea of a home full of one of a kind, handmade objects – precious things that bring their own personalities and spirit. Because every day is a celebration.
SHAPE: The monsters are hand-shaped, usually on the wheel, and then altered. Flat trays start off as rings; others get tossed sideways on a slab until the surface cracks. Bowls are hung upside down, surfaces are raked, carved, pinched… Ming’s fingermarks can be found on every monster. Each one is created individually and entirely by hand until her own personality appears.
FIRE: The spirit of each monster appears in the kiln. Ming fires most of his work in wood kilns, which require constant feeding. The flames and smoke and ash all work together to paint the pots with color and texture. This is where the monsters become themselves, and begin to glow. (For more on wood kiln firing, read on below!)
I was born in Taiwan, and earned my BFA in ceramics and architecture design from Massachusetts College of Art and a Master of Architecture from MIT.
My work is inspired by Asian (particularly Japanese) sensibilities and its many rituals. It is a reinterpretation, a fusion of east and west. I am interested in gesture, in attitude. I enjoy deconstructing traditional forms, challenging Western distinctions between functional and fine art, and redefining function according to essence: what is essential? I am searching for the tension between quietness and dynamic fluidity in the interplay of form and surfaces.
I am particularly interested in the interplay between modernism and wabi-sabi. As an artistic form, wabi-sabi embraces that which is imperfect, asymmetrical, deliberately crude. This is diametrically opposed to the influence of commercialized modernism, in which we place value in slick, high-tech and machine-made objects and consider imperfection to be a defect. I am playing with ambiguity and contradiction.
Wabi-sabi is not only the beauty of imperfection. It is also the wisdom of natural simplicity, and finding the spirit in the everyday. For a potter, it is about connecting with the earth. About being present, and breathing and seeing what comes.
Although I like to experiment with different clays, forms and firing, I gravitate toward wood firing. It is an active, labor-intensive process that requires constant tending for many days. A wood fire can be carefully guided, but it is never controlled, and the result – between the flame’s ability to paint the pots and the artist’s intention – is a kind of collaborative alchemy that reveals the character and spirit of the clay. Recently, I have begun refiring work multiple times to layer in multiple glazes and effects.
Throughout the years, I have been fortunate to be able to attend workshops with many international recognized artists, including Bruce Dehnert, Fred Olsen, Torbjorn Kvasbo, Takeshi Yasuda, John Dix, Lynn Munns, Josh DeWeese, Fong Choo and more.
I am currently based in Brooklyn, NY.
The anagram kiln, seen above, is also known as a dragon kiln. Some say that it gets its name from its shape (like a long snake) or the fire shooting out of it, but to me, the sound of the fire drawing air into the belly of the kiln sounds like a dragon’s breath. And this is its mouth:
An anagama holds hundreds of pieces in a single chamber. It can take several days just to load it. We generally fire for between five and seven days, so it takes a crew of potters to tend the kiln in shifts. We have to adjust the heat by “stoking,” or feeding it with wood, every three to five minutes or so. We strive to create a firing rhythm, which means problem-solving, to either maintain or gain temperature. The answer is almost immediate: the kiln will tell you what it needs.
It’s like going away to camp for a week, living in the woods, splitting wood, feeding the fire, learning how to sleep in the middle of the day so you can be ready when it’s your turn again. My favorite shift is the night shift, usually 10 PM to 6 AM or midnight to 8 AM, when the fire lights up the dark. The stars come out, and so do the night creatures: coyotes, foxes, bears… You can hear them.
But the weather doesn’t always cooperate, nor do the ticks.
The best thing about a wood firing is the community of friends. Seeing different visions and approaches to the clay from your fellow artists. And there’s always lots of music around.
Wood-firing is about:
Tending, waiting, being patient.
Shadows playing, from the flame and smoke.
Sharing your thoughts, and trying out new strategizes for how to fire.
Catching up on life with your friends.
Huddling next to the firebox to keep warm.
Until it’s time to shut it down and let it cool.