The Sanbao International Ceramic Art Institute is nestled in the Sanbao valley outside Jingdezhen. Terrance Lazaroff, Sanbao’s International Program Advisor, talks about their residency program for ceramic and visual artists housed in old farms in the Sanbao valley.
China Residencies: Please tell us about how Sanbao got started.
Terrance Lazaroff: Sanbao began as a dream of Jackson Li of Jingdezhen and Wayne Higby of Alfred University, USA, back in the mid-1990’s. They envisioned an international ceramic art center located in China, that would provide the opportunity to the international art community to explore the culture, arts and crafts of China.
For countless centuries, the Sanbao Valley had been the source of China stone for the ceramic studios of Jingdezhen, and was dotted with numerous old water-powered hammer mills for crushing the stone. A group of farm houses and adobe buildings were chosen as the site for the future art center.
Sanbao started as a full residency program for ceramic artists in 2000. The program was expanded in 2007 to accept visual artists of all mediums. We now host painters, printmakers, sculptors, photographers, and muralists, to name a few.
CR: Sanbao is located just outside Jingdezhen, one of the world’s oldest cities for ceramic and pottery making. Does Sanbao have equipment on site that’s specific to traditional Chinese ceramic techniques?
TL: Sanbao has not forgotten its origins as a ceramic center, providing artists the opportunity to immerse themselves in traditional Chinese porcelain culture. We maintain a traditional working ceramic village on site. The residents have the opportunity to work with artisan potters in the studios and workshops. Equipment has modernized over the years; however, some traditional equipment is still in use in the studios. All residents are offered the opportunity to visit traditional potteries in the Jingdezhen region, and residents receive full support of the administration and technical staff to ensure their stay is productive and memorable.
CR: The residency program accepts artists almost year round -- how many artists do you host every year?
TL: We host about about sixty to one hundred of artists every year, some come here for a short visit and study for one month, some come here to work for three to six months .
CR: What’s the ideal length of a residency at Sanbao?
TL: The ideal length of a residency is three months. Extensions are possible to accommodate artists who need additional time to complete their projects.
CR: Sanbao celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2010 with a big expansion and many commemorative events. What kinds of facilities make up Sanbao today?
TL: Yes, 2010 was a banner year for Sanbao. We created additional artist studios, built new kilns, introduced air conditioning in the studios and residencies, and established a private sales gallery and boutique. We also began work on the now completed Sanbao Museum, which has become a magnet for international and domestic artists to visit and exhibit their works.
Numerous art and ceramic supporters come to Sanbao to visit the buildings, and partake in the marvelous meals prepared by the Sanbao chef. Sanbao hosts great food services facilities as well as a marvelous bar.
CR: Do residents have opportunities to exhibit the work they make on site?
TL: All residents have the opportunity to show their work in our museum-quality galleries. The Sanbao gallery has become quite well known over the years.
CR: Can you tell us a bit more about the opportunities you provide for residents to meet local artists and art students?
TL: Sanbao is a bridge between residents, the local community of artists, and art students. Nowadays, more and more local artists and students are renting space to build their own studio throughout the valley. Our resident artists visit the studios, meet and socialize with the local artists.
Sanbao also provides mentorship opportunities for the young students from the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute. We encourage the students to come to Sanbao to meet with the international artists. Many students offer their friendship and help the visiting artists with translation and find their way around Jingdezhen’s art community and social life.
Our residents are regularly introduced and invited by the master ceramic artists that work in Jingdezhen to visit their studios, partake in meals and to discuss their medium.
Resident artists are also welcomed and encouraged to participate in the cultural festivals, holiday celebrations and day tours in and around Jingdezhen.
CR: Can you please tell us about one or two of the most successful projects by past residents?
TL: In 2003 a young ceramic artist from Toronto, Susan Collett, came to Sanbao on a three month residency. She began studying the many textures found in the nature around Sanbao. She now one of Canada’s leading ceramists.
In 2012, a group of five outstanding artists from the Terra Delft Gallery in the Netherlands came to Sanbao for a six-week stay in Sanbao. They explored the local material, and techniques, and work with our Chinese artists, and organized two major exhibitions in Sanbao and at the Shanghai Art Fair. Sanbao has since maintained a strong link and a continuous collaboration with the Terra Delft Gallery. They sponsored five renowned artists to come to Sanbao this year to create ceramic works of art. Each of the artists had a special experience during their stay at Sanbao. The Delft artists also exhibited in the Sanbao Art Gallery.
These are just a few examples of projects Sanbao has facilitated with artists from all over the world, such as the Americas, Canada, the UK, Japan, and Europe.
CR: Is there anything else you'd like to add about the program, your mission, or the opportunities you provide for artists?TL: Sanbao is a special place. It is a mystical art palace nestled in the lush, green, Sanbao valley. It captivates the imagination of the artists that arrive from all parts of the globe. Sanbao serves as their gateway into the marvelous array of Chinese cultural activities. The residents become members of the Sanbao family and they returned again and again.