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© 2019 Ariel Fang

TRAINING IN THE MOUNTAINS

March 10, 2016

 

It is just leaves and water, but tea makes sense of all facets of my life.

 

Thank you for coming here and reading this far. I will be working off this website as a compilation of thoughts, updates, and work/artwork sharing. I have been thinking about this blog for awhile now, so if I sway to the overly philosophical and cliche waxing please forgive me.

 

With subsequent posts I hope to better articulate my own thoughts captured in the first sentence of this post, as well as share some interesting things about tea, tea-culture, and ceramics to the gracious individual that stumbles upon this blog/website/thing.

 

 

In a few days I’ll be on a plane to Taiwan to study ceramics (specifically wood-firing) with a “master” in the mountains.

 

This is, at least, what I have been telling myself and others for the past few months. Sometimes I worry that I’m building it up (que Kill Bill-esque movie montages) and that I’m sorely misrepresenting what I’ll end up doing. But the truth is, aside from knowing that I will be picked up at the airport by my Uncle, and possibly going to the Jinshan District 金山區 because that is maybe where the artist is, I do not know what to expect in the slightest.

 

I do not know if I will be the only person there working under the artist, I am uncertain to how ready people are for me there, I have no idea if I’ll produce work that I will be able to return with. “I don’t know” and “no clue” is what I generally have been telling people when asked questions about my mysterious study.

 

All I know is that I will make things and learn more about tea when I arrive. And as of right now that is enough for me.

 

After quitting my job last year due to general deterioration in physical and mental health, my mother generously took me to Taiwan for a much needed break. I was (and still am) your stereotypical post-grad wandering the streets of an urban city stuck in a depressive rut questioning the point of it all. To illustrate how bad it was, one note I wrote to myself was, “1. There is a lot of guilt with coming and not seeking a worthwhile occupation….3. Gotta self love. gotta, gotta, gotta”.

 

During my time in Taiwan I took some photos of things I found interesting - many of them were of doorways - I wanted to make sure I remember the setting. If I could begin concretizing place, then maybe I wouldn’t feel as though I was sandwiched in limbo. The days were filled with haphazard leisure.

 

At some point, my mother and I stopped into a tea shop recommended by a friend in the Da’an district 大安區 in Taipei. (Da’an translates to “great peace” or “great safety”, something quite enlightening to me in retrospect.) Even though we have never been to this shop, my mother and I end up staying 5 hours - we had a lot of free tea. We were fed by the tea host’s friend who bought vegetable buns and smoked chicken just because, a frequent shop visitor gave us some homegrown bananas, we were invited to a couple’s home the next day for lunch. We had never met any of these people prior to that day, and I was overwhelmed by their hospitality. In the tea shop the swirling, off-kelter ennui dissipated and I felt peace.

 

 

The next day we go to the couple’s house for lunch and learn that they have been collecting ceramic ware from Taiwanese ceramic artists for the past few decades. Looking at vessels after vessels, drinking tea from the couple’s friends, admiring the beauty of their petrified wood table, seeing the expansive view of Taipei in their condo hi-rise, I was giddy, in awe of the splendor. I hadn’t felt that happy in a long time. We stopped by their home a couple more times prior to me leaving Taiwan and they invited me to come back anytime. They told me that they would be more than happy to connect me to some of their artist friends for the possibility of apprenticing.

 

At the time I considered the chance to apprentice as a good chance to take another break later on and tinker with a hobby. I thanked them for their kindness and made general promises that I will think of them the next time I come back.

 

And so here I am a year later about to take them up on their offer.

However, I am not going to Taiwan merely for a break from a life that I am dissatisfied by, nor am I trying to figure out my life. I’m going into this trip with clarity. I am going to study ceramics and tea because there is profound beauty to be discovered there. I look forwards to the great joys to come in sharing my discoveries with you.

 

 

 

 

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