Taylor Cowan • July 31, 2023
Unveiling Artistry: Meet ceramist, Zhong Fu Chan of Taiwan
Simplicity is surprisingly unsimple. In our increasingly complex, instant and demanding world, simplicity requires practice and cultivation, within oneself before without. To Zhong Fu Chan, the pursuit of simplicity (not an ersatz buzzword or signifier of it) is what consumes his work. There's a desirable unpredictability to the woodfire kiln that tantalizes us, and, by ways, drives the journey towards reticence, humility, austerity, and non-fussiness.
One of our favorite memories from the sourcing trip was sitting in Chan’s modest, brightly lit home studio, drinking tea, and by chance asking, “Where does your clay come from?” He laughed, stood his chair and without a word, showed us a palletized stack of red clay bags outside his front door. He motioned to us and said (in Chinese) “America.” I laughed thinking to myself of this strange 15,000 mile transoceanic voyage this millions-year-old clay would undergo—all the different states of being it would assume, all the hands it would touch, before being enjoyed making tea in its final home: likely, in America.
Zhong Fu Chan was born in Keelung City, but calls Taichung home now. He makes it clear that he does not consider himself “an artist” but rather a professional craftsman. Ceramic making is his trade, in his own words, "to support [his] family." What’s clear from the rugged and organic forms in his pots, is the inspiration he draws from nature—the striations, branching, and organic lines, and even the roughness. But he also draws on the long and proud line of Chinese ceramic forms and processing before him. It’s no surprise that so many of his pieces are wood-fired.
His pieces celebrate flow—what we’d call transubstantiation—if there’s a rugged, primordial feeling to his stoneware, there is also a smoothness to them—you can admire where the lines draw the eye. They also pour exceptionally well. Zhong Fu Chan is committed to the belief that the structure, solidity and function of the teapot must be sound before any aesthetic conceit. Good teaware, like good tea, takes time. It also takes intentionality and care. Zhong Fu Chan’s is a craft borne of all three. ✮