We are very proud to feature the Nixing Clay Teapots of Li Changquan in our Shop. The Master of the Li Brothers Studio, Li has carried and added to the legacy of his family’s studio. This is a short introduction to this artist’s studio and to his work.
Li Brothers in San Francisco, 1915
It was during the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 that the Li Brothers Studio first exhibited its Nixing clay art overseas. The Nixing clay vase won the gold medal for ceramic art, bringing attention to a little-known school of ceramic art known variously as Qinzhou pottery – after the town in Guangxi where it is practiced – and Nixing clay. Although not as well known outside of China, the clay has long been prized by a devoted subset of tea drinkers for its special properties.
The Li Brothers studio has continued to produce excellent work from its many masters down through the years, who in turn pass on the knowledge and technique to new generations through the Master – Apprentice relationship that has kept the art alive through periods of serious upheaval.
The Seventh Master
Born into a family of Nixing artists in 1942, Li started his apprenticeship in Nixing ceramics at the age of 17. Once he succeeded his teacher, Li became the Master of the Li Brothers Studio, a title he has held for over 50 years. He is the seventh artist to hold this title since the founding of the studio six generations ago.
Li’s work, including his wheeling and especially his carvings, have earned the recognition of both artists and experts in the field, and he has seen his work exhibited in galleries in China and abroad. His awards and Exhibits include:
Nixing has a long history in China, however it has often been overlooked by the tea drinking community outside of the country. While much has been written online about Yixing Zisha and Chinese porcelain, very little has been said about this other ceramic art.
What is Nixing?
One of the four famous varieties of Chinese pottery (the other three varieties are: SiChuan RongChang clay; Yixing ZiSha Clay; and YunNan JianShui Clay). Nixing tea ware is produced in the town of Qinzhou, in Guangxi province, China. Qinzhou ceramic artists have been producing Nixing ceramics, including storage vessels for food and tea, cook ware and tea ware, for centuries. The art form has an official history of 1300 years. Nixing tea ware had a major boom in popularity towards the end of the Qing Dynasty, during the Xianfeng period.
Nixing ceramics have a very special production process for the clay before it is wheeled by Nixing artists. Nixing clay is a mixture of clay from the East and West banks of the Qinjiang River in Qinzhou. The two clays are prepared differently and then mixed to create Nixing clay. Clay from the East bank of the river is stored wet in a sealed container before being mixed. Clay from the West bank of the river is left outside, exposed to the elements (under rain and sunshine) for 4 to 6 months. The exposed West bank clay becomes hard and weathered. The clay is then taken and crushed into powder and mixed with the wet East bank clay. The common ratio of mixture is 4 parts East-bank clay to 6 parts West-bank clay.
The clay is then shaped on a pottery wheel by hand. The artist may or may not add a carving to the outside of the piece. When the artist is finished shaping the piece it is fired at a high temperature of 1200 degrees Celsius.
The Nixing Difference
Nixing is known for six important defining features.
Nixing Clay is non toxic and non-reactive. It does not react when in contact with acids or bases. It is porous and can breathe. These characteristics made Nixing clay an ideal material for vessels used for food and drink. As such, Nixing is commonly used for storing food and tea, as well as for brewing and holding tea and coffee. It is most widely used for tea ware.
Often overlooked in the tea world, Nixing clay is a hidden gem. It has been spared the hype that has pushed the prices of other kinds of ceramics (like Yixing Zisha) very high and given rise to fakes in the market. Nixing offers beauty, good tea brewing, safety, all at a great value.
Check out our Nixing Teapots here: