Portraits in porcelain

Portraits in porcelain

One man's dream is to re-establish Asia's claim to be the centre of fine china

Why is the best china not from China? With this question in mind, Shen Hen-rong, founder of the prestigious Taiwan porcelain brand 1300 Only Porcelain, began a six-year quest for an innovative and gorgeous china style.

China-making was a traditional Chinese usable art form exported to the Arab world and the West until the early 1700s when Europeans mastered the craft. Since then the Germans, French and the British have created some of the world's best china.

"Currently, Germany and France have some of the world's most famous china brands," Shen says. "There are mainland [China] factories producing china but their brands are nowhere close to high-end and some are just manufacturing plants for prestigious foreign brands." That upset him, and he decided to create a product that would outshine Western brands. After six years of countless setbacks, making tonnes of china in experiments, Shen created the unique "720-degree no-edge design".

This porcelain sculpture design is distinctive because it involves figurines which do not have a base, unlike other china sculptures. People are able to view the work from every angle, front and back, top and bottom. To make things more challenging, Shen insists on using white as the primary colour.

"My ambition is to create a brand of china that wins over the global market so I have to do something that is extraordinarily impressive," he says. "Using white in china sculptures or any other sculptures is the most challenging because a slight scratch on the surface or a tiny dirty spot is seen clearly on a white background. It is a challenge to create flawless masterpieces."

Shen's china has earned high praise in the West. "I have exhibited my china in New York and France and earned a lot of praise for my uniqueness and style. My products are mostly sold in Taiwan, and I think in five to 10 years, I will hit the global market. It takes time for a brand to develop. My ultimate goal is to have a china museum of my own."

His success story is unusual - and may have surprised him even. He was an electrical engineering student who, in 1981, moved to the United States to work in a restaurant and later attended a china-making course by chance. He was deeply attracted to the art and ended up getting a master's degree in fine arts from the University of Hartford. Shen launched his own line of china 15 years ago in Taiwan.

In a wealthy society, Shen says, people have the resources to seek things that enhanced their quality of life. "Art and culture are going to be the focus and I can foresee a bright future for the industry."

To see Shen's striking creations, visit the Pure White China exhibition at Landmark North in Sheung Shui until May 11



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