Saturday, December 4, 2010

day 79_day trip to Yingge

Taiwan is a pretty small island, and I hope to explore every inch of it in it's entirety during my time here, but - that being the case - I am off to a slow start! Today I finally got out of the city for a bit to explore Taipei County. A friend and I took the train to Yingge, which is about a 30-40 minute ride. Yingge is a town on the outskirts of Taipei that has become particularly famous for pottery & ceramics. I guess in my mind I expected to find a quaint little town in the country... but it wasn't quite. More like an average suburb, with an abundance of dishes, statues, and sculptures.

First, we decided to check out the Taipei County Yingge Ceramics Museum. The museum is housed in a very modern structure designed by a well known Taiwanese architect, Chien Hsueh-yi  - the actual museum design and exhibition spaces were lovely... they reminded me of the Modern Museum of Art in Fort Worth, Texas, by architect Louis Kahn (which I also love).

< Etched In Memory Solo Exhibition by Osamu Kojima >
A soloist exhibition on the first floor featured modern ceramics created to reflect the beauty of forms in nature. In person, these were pretty spectacular - the dark ceramics with the blue clear glazes that formed almost like glass... shimmering like water poured over a rock.

< Etched in Memory Solo Exhibition by Osamu Kojima >
The museum also had traditional displays narrating the history of ceramics in Taiwan, the progression of ceramic uses to present day, etc. I liked the traditional and the modern works - each for different reasons... and I especially liked the history of ceramic building materials.

< (part of) History of ceramics used as construction materials >
On the third floor, the current featured exhibit was from Spanish artists - mostly modern works - these were great too. What can I say? The museum was great - definitely worth checking out if you are ever in Yingge.

< An Exhibition for Spanish Ceramic Art - Cactus Series by Lina Cofan >

< An Exhibition for Spanish Ceramic Art - Column II by Mia Lauder > 
After the museum, we set out to find the "Ceramics Old Street" which is the centralized location of many ceramic and pottery shops/studios/vendors/anything you can imagine related to ceramics! It was rather touristy - the town put quite a bit of revamping into the area a few years ago - but the cobblestone streets, pedestrian blocks, giant palm trees, and warm sunshine were all very welcoming. Not so touristy to the point of being unpleasant. There were also many shops that offered the chance to actually create your own pottery on the wheel - they looked like fun!

Yingge, Ceramics Old Street
The Tunnel Kiln (no longer in use)
The shops vary from offering mass produced items priced at +/- $1 US each, all the way up to custom artisan items costing thousands of dollars. I wish I had a use for some of the treasures we saw today! But alas, I mostly purchased small items for Christmas gifts to family & friends. We walked and shopped for at least a few hours, before we decided we had seen more plates, bowls, teapots and vases than anyone would know what to do with!

Yingge, Ceramic Old Street

Once the shops started all blurring together (not to mention our hands were full and our feet were tired...), we figured we had probably seen enough. Yingge was a neat town though. Now I know where to go to buy dishes or fine china if the need ever arises. :)

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