Ho Tai Kwan, the last remaining ceramic sculpture artist in HK, renowned in making traditional ceramics in the style originating in Shek Wan, China. I am not going to write about the ceramic-making process, instead i want to focus more on my feelings towards the master. I met with Master Ho for the first time on a beautiful Friday evening, when he was teaching a class of 12 retired policemen how to make a traditional tea pot. The atmosphere was lively and fun, everyone was chit-chatting. The master meticulously and patiently helped each one of the students with their almost completed ceramics, taking time over the construction of the handle and the spout, the most difficult parts of a teapot.
Master Ho arrived in HK in 1981, although he had started to practise the art at 37 years old from watching his Dad who is a famous ceramics artist. 37 years later, he is just as dedicated as when he first started. He is a natural with an acute sense of artistic touch, and his finished products can be found at China Arts and Crafts in Wanchai. The master told me one of the most difficult steps when making ceramics is actually mixing the right texture and painting the colour. It sounds so easy but is in fact the most difficult part apparently.
Master didn’t like making ceramics based on characters, which was his Dad’s speciality. Instead he would rather make tea sets and ceramics based on the theme of nature. Master told me the young ceramics artists nowadays tend to make ceramics influenced by Western styles and have abandoned the traditional Chinese style. They tell him that the traditional style is a thing of the past. I can feel the disappointment, distaste even, in the master's tone. For him, he doesn’t really care what others think, he will keep guarding the traditional style. For him, tradition is everything, as it helps us understand our roots.
Master works 365 days a year, teaching classes, making ceramics for sale and for exhibition. You can feel the passion he has for his art. You can see his dedication and feel his wish that more people get to see this special craft. He kept telling me that there is an exhibition coming up in Nov and i must visit him then. When i asked why this type of ceramics can fetch such a high price in China, with some artists making over a million dollars just for one piece, he said the reason is because the Chinese government ensures that these artists are properly recognised, and they have a a grading system that artists have to aspire to. This keeps standards - and prices - high and encourages others to become involved in the art. But no regrets, no complaints, the master just cares about holding on to his belief and spreading the awareness of the art whenever he can.
Before I left, the master gave me a book, a showcase of his and his Dad’s ceramic art, which he autographed with a poem based on my name. How beautiful - it seems he’s also a very famous calligrapher!