• Tian Qing Ni Part 2: From Clay to Teapot

    After being shaped by the potter, Tian Qing Ni teapots go through the same final steps in production as other Yixing Teapots. They are first left to dry out thoroughly before being fired in the kiln. "Tian Qing Ni" can be translated as azure or sky-blue clay. It might seem like a strange name for a clay that is perhaps best described as being “dark liver" in appearance in finished teapots. The name makes more sense when you see the raw ore and unfired clay.
  • Tian Qing Ni: From Raw Ore to Clay

    Now that the first batch of Tian Qing Ni Yixing Teapots has emerged from the kiln, we decided to write a short follow up to last October’s article, this time discussing the steps in the process for turning raw Tian Qing Ni ore into usable clay for teapots. Tian Qing Ni is a rare subcategory of purple Yixing clay (zini), prized for its beauty, ease of shaping and firing, and for improving the flavour and aroma of tea. 
  • Small Shuipings are Coming!

    This year will be the first time we order a custom mould for our own line of Yixing Teapots. In recognition that many of our customers prefer smaller Yixing Teapots, we have ordered a mould for dicaoqing shuipings in a sub-100ml capacity. The design will recreate the classic shuiping silhouette in the studio's excellent original ore dicaoqing, a versatile zini (purple clay). 
  • New Year, New Clay

    Anticipating the end of his supply of dicaoqing clay, Lin Hanpeng had purchased a large amount of raw dicaoqing ore mined from Mine No. 5 in Huanglongshan. The raw ore was processed into clay and then stored for ageing in late 2018.
  • Benshan Duanni or Benshan Lüni?

    Within the category "duanni," there is also the clay called “Benshan Duanni” 本山段泥. Another well-known clay within the “duanni” category is Benshan Lüni 本山绿泥. Although both are yellow clays mined from the same mountain, they differ in origin, composition and character.
  • Some Notes on Yixing Clay Scarcity and Pricing

    “If clay x is so rare, it should cost $1000s for a teapot made of this clay.”

    No, usually not. While you will not be able to buy an authentic zhuni teapot for $25, you also do not need to pay $1000 for one either. The price difference between more common and less common clays can usually vary between  $10-100 or so between teapots (all other things being equal). The rarity of clay is not the biggest influence on price in the zisha market, labour and the skill/reputation of the potter usually are. Fully handmade teapots are more expensive than half handmade teapots, and a fully handmade teapot by a master, even more so.

  • Lipini, the Pear Skin Clay

    1 ½ tons of rock sat in the yard behind Lin Hanpeng’s studio in Yixing while men smashed it into pieces with hammers. This rock, after crushing, separating and processing, yielded mostly tianqingni, but also some lipini. While tianqingni is seen as one of the most precious varieties of zini (purple clay), lipini is rarer still, appearing only in thin layers between tianqingni deposits.
  • DaYuLing 100K Tea Garden

    The fragrant rolled oolong from DaYuLing is prized for being the highest elevation tea produced in Taiwan. Unfortunately for DaYuLing oolong drinkers, the Taiwanese government has been reclaiming this area over the last few years. Some of these farms were said to be in violation of land use regulations, and in some cases, land leases had expired. Mountain erosion and pollution being concerns, the reclaimed farmland has had its tea trees removed and is being replanted with local vegetation.
  • Tian Qing Ni

    Tian qing ni 天青泥 has taken on a legendary status for many Yixing teapot enthusiasts. Said to be the finest variety of zini (Yixing purple clay),  most of the information available about tian qing ni can be found in sources that rely on ancient references to the clay as well as surviving examples of antique tian qing ni teapots and the raw ore (such as the examples found today in the Yixing Ceramics Museum).
  • Yixing Teapots: Most Popular Clays and Shapes, and the North-South Difference.

    This is part 2 of our interview with Lin Hanpeng, the co-owner along with Chen Chunhong, of an Yixing Teapot Studio.
  • Inside an Yixing Teapot Studio

    The first time we met Chen Chunhong and Lin Hanpeng was at the tea table of their shop in Guangzhou. Chen Chunhong chatted with us as she poured us each a cup of shu pu'er. Her husband Lin Hanpeng was discussing clay with some customers. At the time the two were very busy with a growing customer base - thanks largely to word of mouth among zisha (Yixing Clay) enthusiasts in the city. Their shop was known for the authenticity of its teapots - only using original ore zisha and focusing on functionality. They worked with a few reliable artists out of Yixing. They soon left their shop in Guangzhou to establish their own studio in Yixing.
  • Ball Filter Phobia

    Teapots with ball filters have a somewhat dubious reputation in China. For many, having a ball filter is a sign that a teapot is cheap or low-quality. To understand where this reputation comes from and how fair it is, it helps to look at where this design came from and how it has been applied.