"I also dream of making ceramic peonies accessible to ordinary households, allowing people from all walks of life to appreciate their beauty," said Leo Wong, a Hong Kong ceramicist.
by Huang Xitian
HONG KONG, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- With over 10 manufacturing processes and firing at a high temperature of 1,300 degrees Celsius, after 12 hours of heating and 12 hours of cooling, a vivid clay peony flower "blooms" under the skillful hands of Leo Wong, a Hong Kong ceramicist.
In July, Wong showcased his creations at a Hong Kong cultural event, the French May Arts Festival. His visual art exhibition, titled "Chinoiserie: Enduring Allure of the Far East," was well received by the audience.
"As a lover of flowers, I am on a quest to employ modern techniques in recreating the everlasting beauty of flowers with clay," said Wong.
Wong's penchant for ceramic art traces back to his childhood years. He grew up in his grandparents' garden, sprawling nearly 30,000 square feet in Hong Kong's New Territories.
"I fondly remember searching for duck eggs with my grandma along the trails and harvesting ripe vegetables from the plots every week," he recalled. Playing in the mud and sculpting various shapes with soil became his favorite pastime.
After completing his university education, fueled by his deep fascination with the intricacies of nature, Wong pursued a career as a landscape designer.
During an overseas exchange program, he was bewitched by a ceramic flower adorning a vase in a European castle. This encounter rekindled his joyful memories of sculpting figures with clay during his childhood.
Contemplating the exquisite craftsmanship of traditional ceramic flowers, Wong pondered how modern technology could be leveraged to make the ceramic flower petals thinner and non-reflective, allowing them to appear not only beautiful but also lifelike.
Upon his return to Hong Kong, Wong sought apprenticeship and immersed himself in the study of Lingnan ceramic culture. He delved into extensive research on ancient and contemporary ceramic literature while experimenting with various techniques and formulas.
Through his exploration, he discovered that the traditional method of glazing ceramics resulted in thick and reflective petals. To overcome this challenge, he incorporated ceramic glaze directly into the clay for flower-making. This innovative approach rendered the ceramic petals thinner and translucent, infusing each petal with an essence of lifelikeness.
Using porcelain clay enriched with kaolin, fired at temperatures up to 1,300 degrees Celsius, comparable to volcanic magma temperature, Wong achieved a crystalline and translucent texture in his ceramic flowers.
Among all flowers, peony holds a special place in Wong's heart. However, due to Hong Kong's hot and humid climate, peonies, which thrive in cooler temperatures, struggle to grow in the region. Consequently, many Hong Kong residents have limited opportunities to appreciate the majestic beauty of peonies.
To better capture the beauty of the peony, Wong often seeks inspiration from the poetry of Tang and Song dynasties. "The peony has been popular since the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and numerous poets have woven their words into enchanting verse to extol the flower," Wong said.
When coloring and shaping the form of ceramic peonies, ancient poetry's imagery consistently serves as a wellspring of inspiration for him.
His devotion to his craft has not gone unnoticed. His works have been displayed in countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Singapore and Japan, finding their way into the collections of renowned art connoisseurs.
"Whenever I showcase my works at international exhibitions, many viewers find it difficult to distinguish between real flowers and my ceramic creations, lavishly praising the artistry of Chinese ceramic aesthetics," said Wong.
As a ceramicist, his aspirations go beyond exhibitions. "I also dream of making ceramic peonies accessible to ordinary households, allowing people from all walks of life to appreciate their beauty," he said.
To fulfill this vision, Wong conducts workshops where he shares his techniques and knowledge with enthusiastic learners eager to explore the art of ceramic flower-making.
These workshops have consistently had a full house, with over 3,000 participants, including many foreigners, having already benefited from his guidance.
"Don't worry about whether your creation looks like a peony or not, because there are countless species of peonies. No matter how it turns out, it will resemble one of them." During his workshops, Wong always encourages participants to unleash their creativity with a humorous tone.
His passion for ceramics extends far beyond the workshop walls. "Through my artistry, I endeavor to bridge cultures and foster a deeper appreciation for the beauty that lies in diversity," Wong said.