Celadon or Qing Ci in Chinese was invented in ancient China during the Song Dynasty (960-1126 AD) most notably Zhejiang province. In ancient China only the elite and royalty could afford it. The perfect pieces destined for the emperor's use. The above pieces are Chinese celadon made at the Longquan kilns.
The above and below pictures are the only Chinese celadon that I own. By examining the foot of the cup it is apparent that that base material for the piece is porcelain. And that is the main issue of this post, the base material that is used in the piece of celadon has a big impact on the appearance of the finished piece. Porcelain is not the traditional way of making celadon, originally it was made with a red clay base. The rim of the cup in the above pic pays homage to celadons roots, by painting it red it,s purpose is to imitate the original look of celadon.
Celadon is making a come back, many young potters taking up this almost lost art and learning through trial and error and mostly self taught. Celadon is made in a reducing atmosphere kiln, meaning the temperature is gradually reduced, that as well as the base material and the thickness of the glaze is what determines the finished pieces color and appearance. The colors can range from white, grey, grey / green, yellow and a variety of blues. One of the most notable visual aspects of celadon is the cracks in the glaze, some of them deliberately made to crack in the kiln and some of the celadon initially have no cracks but with use develop cracks and fractures. The reason for the different base material is that the original red clay base contains iron oxide, and there is the problem. The glaze also contains iron oxide and consequently there are adhesion problems between the glaze and the clay. Originally Chinese celadon also used the red clay but with a 20% success rate after firing I can understand why the potters stopped using it. You can not determine which pieces will be defective before firing. However there are still some potters willing to take that gamble, mostly the Taiwanese potters. All the pieces in the pics below are handmade by Xu De Jia, a Taiwanese potter. The temperamental nature of the combination of glaze and pottery make for a not so lucrative pursuit as many pieces are lost due to flaws. Wu Yuen Zhong a Taiwanese potter claims a success rate of one out of every thirty pieces.
A variety of celadon tea ware, kyusu style teapot, fair cups, tea jars and cups. All made with red clay as it,s base. The pic above was taken a long time ago, now the teapot is almost completely covered in tiny cracks. You can see pics of that in some of my other posts. The teapot and the cup are made with the traditional red clay, the jars and fair cup an alternative red clay similar to the white tasting cups in the pic below.
But not all red clay is the same. The cups above are made from red clay but it,s not the original type of clay. This clay contains no iron and therefore no adhesion problems. Celadon has such a unique creamy feel, some people wouldn't use anything else for their tea. I wouldn't go that far but I,m definitely obsessed with the stuff. Celadon is expensive, of course the handmade type being more expensive. Usually the Chinese celadon is manufactured and the handmade celadon coming from Taiwan and Japan. The examples of Japanese celadon that Ive seen are amazing, with each yunomi selling for $100.00 each. Out of my price range!
The piece above is made with the traditional red clay, as you can see the traditional clay is quite coarse in appearance but it,s feel is very smooth. One type of celadon is not superior to the other, they are just different styles and methods and materials. Everything is subjective but I personally prefer the traditional red clay celadon. To me it,s rustic yet elegant. When new these pieces were without fractures and gradually watching the cracks develop with use was at the same time interesting and disconcerting. But the cracking is what celadon is known for so if you cant stand the idea of your tea ware cracking then stay away from celadon. When everything works like it is supposed to the results are gorgeous. Not only visually but the feel of the pottery is equally impressive, soft and creamy, elegant and earthy at the same time. Maybe not best suited to tea,s requiring boiling water but for green tea and oolongs it,s ideal.