Have you ever seen huge porcelain vases and wondered how they're made? A few days ago, we toured a factory that makes nothing but 12-foot (and higher) vases. The vases are THROWN BY HAND! It takes two people to be able to throw that much clay, and even then, they have to do them in three-foot sections that are stacked.
The above video is of two gentlemen who throw those sections of the pot. I figured lots of you would find a couple of shirtless men throwing a pot together pretty sexy, so I captured the above video. Even though I think the huge pots are pretty grotesque and unpleasant, there's no denying the sheer improbable power of their creation. Here's the process in short.
First, the pot is thrown in sections (as seen in the video). Then, once the pieces are dry, they're stacked up one by one on another potter's wheel and attached to each other with slip (liquid clay). Then, a person gets the wheel going and starts to trim the whole pot, which refines the shape. Notice that the top portion of the vase isn't on this pot...that part is glazed in place later on to help keep the weight of the entire pot more manageable.
Then, the pot goes off to the decorator for a sweet dragon...or tiger... the people buying these monstrosities generally aren't the most subtle of art connoisseurs. The pots are generally either decorated with blue and white underglaze, or carved in relief and glazed with a jade-colored celadon glaze. Sometimes though, the vase buyers want both carving and underglaze painting, which is where the really questionable aesthetic choices are made.
Finally, the necks of the pots are put in place, and the whole shebang is sprayed with glaze and fired in a kiln to a high temperature. Check out this ginger jar. That's an awful lot of ginger. The Chinese have been working on this clay thing for thousands of years now. It's been amazing to see how technical achievements like these giant vases are still made using rather modest tools and plenty of skilled labor. The next time you're in your studio wishing you had some fancy piece of equipment, just remember your brothers and sisters in China, who are blowing you out of the water with pieced together equipment that would make McGyver blush.