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  • Jian Zhan Ware

13 Steps of Creating a Jian Zhan

To achieve the highly glossy and striking colour glaze of Jian Zhan is no easy feat. A standard finished end product Jian Zhan required 13 steps of strictly followed processes, in order to ensure there is a slight chance of achieving an average of 4-6% of success rate.

Step 1: Selecting the Clay

Jian Zhan is well known for its unique glaze and designs which you cannot find 2 Jian Zhan exactly identical. The reason behind this is simply because of the iron rich clay which is used as the tea cup molding and coating. This special iron rich clay is exclusively found in Fujian, China. Hence, since Song Dynasty, Emperor Song Hui Zhong was particularly fond of Jian Zhan which he lavishly showered his praise and admiration in poet and ancient article. Therefore, selecting the right clay is vital how the final product will look like.

Step 2: Crashing Clay

After selecting the type of soil and clay, next step is to crash and mix them up evenly for next process.

Step 3: Washing Clay

Naturally acquired soil and clay have impurities which will affect the Jian Zhan cup or the coating glaze, therefore, washing away the impurities is critical.

Step 4: Concoction

The glaze formula of the ancient method is made of natural iron glaze ore and plant ash, which is crushed and blended. Simple materials can be fired into exquisite Jian Zhan. It seems incredible, but Jian Zhan is made of the simplest and most primitive Raw materials, fired into mysterious crystals.

The ingredients are made according to different mud materials and proportions; there are many designs and colors of Jian Zhan, one of which is the diversification of ingredients. Who would have thought that the color of glaze water with a single color would change ever-changing after firing.

Step 5: Fermentation

The concoct mixture will then be placed in a dark place where sunlight cannot penetrate and rest the clay. This step is to increase the hardness, evenness and flexibility of the clay for molding later.

Step 6: Mixing the Coating

Pour the treated mud into a cloth bag to dry the water (use a heavy object or a dryer). The mud can be mixed by machine or by hand. The machine can use a vacuum mud refiner, and the manual shovel can be used to mix the mud. The function of this process is to remove or reduce the remaining air in the mud as much as possible, so that the mud is uniform and even.

Step 7: Kneading the Clay

Knead all the mud into a suitable size mud. It can be done manually or mechanically, mainly to remove the air in the mud, to ensure that the mud is more compact and easier to shape, and to prevent cracking and breaking during later roasting.

Step 8: Cupping and Styling

Finally, a step which we can see Jian Zhan taking shape. The clay is placed a potter's wheel which skillful artisans expertly mold clay into different cup shape representing standard cup shapes of Jian Zhan.

Step 9: Fine Tuning

After initial cupping and shaping, the raw form of the cups are 70% air dried, then the artisans will fine tune the shape of the cups further by defining the Base Wall, Base Heels, the cup mouth and body lines of the cups.

Step 10: First Bake

This is to put these raw cups into the kiln for the first time and do the initial baking so that imperfect ones can be eliminated and the raw cups can take a harder form of shapes. This step is critical before the next coating stage so that productivity can be improved significantly.

However, there are some artisans who choose to skip this step as Jian Zhan without First Bake tends to develop an ancient feel to the coating which resembled older days Jian Zhan.

Step 11: Coating

This is the step which differentiates Jian Zhan from other well known potteries. Because despite the coating colour is similar, based on different temperature and kiln management, the final product is usually jaw dropping gorgeous and unique.

Step 12: Filling Up the Kiln

Kiln used for baking the Jian Zhan is unique looking because of the need to achieve high temperature of more than 1,300 Degree Celsius and in the process, oxygenation and strategic cooling process are necessary to achieve different glaze and design. So how to fill up the kiln become a profound knowledge, as the position of the casing keeping the Jian Zhan safe from open flame inside the kiln determined how the high temperature reacts with the iron rich clay coating.

Step 13: Kiln Companionship

Jian Zhan cups are required to be baked in the kiln for more than 48 hours, and during this time, the artisan must stay awake and close to the kiln so that any changes in temperature, weather, humidity and other factors will make or break the final product. Therefore, during this period, the attention needed and the amount of manpower required is significant.

Note: These are the standard well known 13 steps of creating the beautiful and eye catching Jian Zhan, however, with the maturity of process improved, some adventurously artisans added in new steps to create even more breathtaking Jian Zhan. If we have the opportunity, we will discuss this further in the future.

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