Updated: Feb 13, 2019
Science and art are not a binary choice, as both are integral parts of his life
Jui-Fang Hsueh grew up in the countryside. His life has always been like the seeds of oilseed rape. His home is wherever the wind brought him to. The only constant in his life is his love for science - for chemistry and mathematics. In 1965, Jui-Fang graduated from Chung Hsing University with a degree in applied mathematics. He then worked as a quality control engineer at AirAsia and China Airlines. Those experiences convinced him that machinery would be his companion throughout his life until the day he retired.
However, the goddess of fortune brought him and art together and thus led him to a different path. Meeting his wife Feng-Zu Lin - daughter of Pao-Jia Lin, who was known as the father of Taiwan’s ceramic art - brought him into the world of ceramics. In 1974, he took over Pao-Jia’s Tao Lin Workshop and established the Tao Lin Colored Ceramics Studio. Since then, science and art have become integral to his life. With science as the foundation of his creation, Jui-Fang started his career as a ceramic artist, which continues to this day - almost fifty years later.
Jui-Fang spends a great majority of his time on experimenting with high-temperature chemistry - the chemical reactions materials go through under high temperature. The results he has gotten are remarkable! To describe the wonderful color of the glazes used for classic celadons, he quoted a poem from ancient China, “Like the color of the ray of sun shining through the clouds after the rain stops.” In his high-temperature kiln chamber, thousands of trials have yielded countless different colors from the ferric oxide produced in the firing process.
In order to sustain the operation of the Tao Lin Studio, Jui-Fang holds true to the traditional way of making ceramics even after witnessing the changes the market has gone through during the past decades. That is because he believes that the traditional art of making ceramics must be passed down, it must be seen and remembered. Therefore, Jui-Fang has taught courses on the study of glazes, clay and kiln in the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute, Department of Crafts and Design of the National Taiwan University of Arts, and Department of Arts and Design of the National Taipei University of Education.
Jui-Fang was concerned when he talked about passing down the traditions. “Technology has been advancing rapidly,” he said. “Now, there are too many premade glazes one can use to make ceramics. I, however, told my students that if they want to be innovative or unique, they have to start from the basics - studying materials, understanding the techniques used in production and firing, and learning how to mix glazes. What’s more, they have to stand strong against challenges and failures. They have to find the color that is uniquely theirs.” He added, “For beginners, the biggest problem they encounter is often about mixing glazes. It is necessary for them to start from accumulating basic knowledge and acquiring basic skills. One has to take baby steps in discovering, developing, cultivating, and improving oneself. It is as people from ancient China said - the sea contains water from a hundred rivers, and the river of my love may span three kilometers long, but I collect only one ladle to drink from.
Fifty years have passed. The artworks produced in Tao Lin Studio are still circulating in the market. Still, Jui-Fang believes that for an art form to be sustainable, what must be preserved are not only the artworks, but also the ideas and values behind the artworks. In this day and age where new technologies are developed every day, ceramic arts can now be transmitted in a different form, which can enable exchanges between the eastern culture and the western culture. The platform Tao Lin Studio may just be Jui-Fang’s way of passing down the legacy of ceramic art, and his first step to introduce the beauty of ceramics into the western world.