When I reported on bonsai or penjing figurines, I was very curious about the production end. Were they all slipcast? Is anyone creating handmade ones, as they were surely made in early days? Most of these figures today are mass-made and the prices can be embarrassingly low. Craftsman make them, yet the wares go for so little, as with the ones offered by this site, According to Arts by Hand, traditional techniques gave way to slipcasting and the use of press molds. From all accounts, “Pen’Jing is apparently experiencing a revival in modern day China,” states collector Myron Redding. “It is a nearly lost art form that is once again becoming popular with Chinese bonsai enthusiasts.” Redding also states that the figures were originally made by press mold and that sometimes the fingerprints of people long gone can be seen on the back. (I can related to this because I often leave my own fingerprints on the back or bottom of pieces I make…) Describing the pieces, he says, “After the torso was released from the mould, the head, hands and legs or feet would be added.” He explains that
“hair, hats, beards and other items would complete the ensemble. As a finishing touch, eyes, nose and ears would be pierced to add further detail.” The article by Redding is quite good and it is clear that he is a collector who has a great love for the art and craftmanship of antique penjing. If you are interested, take a look, as he goes on to talk about types and colors of clay and glazes originally used. Evidently, the mud women are highly sought after and are a rarity. If you are interested in collecting antique mud figures, click here for a how-to. Further, I am posting two videos, one of a man making fine figurines and another showing penjing figures in a historical overview by Myron Redding.
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