On Thursday, November 26, the Haywards Heath Ceramics Group hosted a Discovery Day at Clair Hall, with a founder member of the group, Mr Lars Tharp, as speaker for the day.
Lars, especially well-known from the Antiques Road Show, was born in Copenhagen, studied Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University and began his working career as an auctioneer at Sotheby’s.
After sixteen years he left to set up his own company, and is now director of the Foundling Museum in London, and visiting professor at De Montfort University, Leicester.
Lars took us on a wonderful tour from Jingdezhen, one of the most famous porcelain areas in China, to Europe, explaining how the ceramics trade grew over the centuries.
This culminated in the explosion of ceramics onto the European market with the involvement of the East India Company.
Lars showed us not only slides of the porcelain but also the countryside surrounding Jingdezhen, which he has visited on numerous occasions for his own interest as well as to make television documentaries about the porcelain trade.
Lars showed the process of making fine porcelain from the clay found in the Jingdezhen region. This was ground to a fine powder and mixed with kaolin, named after Mount Gaolin, to form bricks of clay, which are then moulded into vases, pots and other items. The china was then transported on a long and hazardous journey from Jingdezhen across the Lake of Boyang, up the River Gan and onto Guangzhou (Canton). The china was then loaded onto boats, which travelled from Asia, round the Cape of Good Hope and onwards to Europe.
There were influences on the porcelain reflecting visitors from other parts of the world, in particular the Middle East, with the colour cobalt and patterns from Persian carpets, which figure in some of the designs. It is from these pieces and researching their history that forms part of a greater understanding of human culture and trade over the centuries.
Europe, particularly England, became besotted with Chinese porcelain in the time of William of Orange and his wife Mary, who came over from Holland to succeed to the throne of England, Ireland and Scotland in 1689, bringing with them their tastes for China wares. As European and English porcelain became more popular and techniques were refined, the trade with China started to decline in the late 18th century.
There are magnificent collections of Chinese porcelain in the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin, Burghley House and the Percival David collection now housed in the British Museum.
Also more locally there is a collection built up by the Gresham family at Titsey Place, Oxted in Surrey.
Lars finished the day by appraising objects, which had been brought in by members.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable and informative day with lots of history and humour.
Our next meeting is on January 21 at Clair Hall, Perrymount Road, Haywards Heath, with a talk by Yolande Beer. Yolande is a local studio potter working at Five Ashes, and studied Ceramics at Brighton Polytechnic and in Japan – she now teaches in Colleges, Schools and in her own studio.
For further details please visit our website or contact our membership secretary on 01444 483372 or 01444 483599.
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