Opbeni’s elegant ceramic designs combine beautiful artistic patterns with the warmth of Chinese porcelain in a refreshing way. However, she prefers not to be known as an artist but someone simply “kneading clay in Jingdezhen”.
Together with Opbeni, Lomography is launching two special edition instant cameras reflecting the classical beauty of China. Drawing inspiration from the rich history of Chinese artwork, Opbeni has skillfully hand painted the intricate blue and white porcelain-style cameras that will captivate both art enthusiasts and photography aficionados alike.
On a cold winter day Opbeni took us for a stroll in the Jingdezhen Ceramic Art Market, where young people were busy making ceramic cups, ceramic earrings, ceramic shoes, and more. Each artist had their own unique style and characteristics.
These young people, who were once workers in giant companies, shed their previous identities and became “Jingdezhen drifters” here. Like clay, they had the opportunity to transform through kneading and firing. Opbeni mentioned that many of them were her neighbors, and after the market closed, they could carpool back to their own studios and create together the next day.
After this journey, we truly felt that Jingdezhen was a city of ceramics, where every pottery shop we entered was beautiful and unique. There were blue and white porcelain streetlights, zebra crossings, and billboards all around the city.
We also visited Opbeni’s studio. The simple hut was filled with various ceramic bottles and jars alongside paintbrushes and pigments. Our interview started right there.
Hello Opbeni, welcome to Lomography Magazine. Please introduce yourself to our readers!
Hello Lomography, I'm Opbeni, a person who kneads clay in Jingdezhen. I majored in economics in college. I started my own ceramics studio in 2021 after quitting my job at a state-owned enterprise.
Why did you choose to quit your stable job and start your own ceramic studio?
I resigned because I found my ordinary and stable job uninteresting and wanted to do something I truly enjoyed. I wanted to experience a different lifestyle.
Since I was young, I have had a strong interest in painting and handcrafts. After getting into pottery, I found it very satisfying; kneading clay, drawing on clay, and then firing it into ceramic. It is not only a skill, but also a joyful activity. By chance, I came to Jingdezhen. The city has a strong cultural charm, and its business environment, creative resources, and artistic atmosphere deeply attracted me. I also met many interesting friends here. With a relaxed pace of life, I decided to stay here after learning pottery, to continue learning about ceramic culture and knowledge.
Could you tell us about your experience of being a “Jingdezhen drifter” (景漂) since you established your studio in 2021?
The biggest feeling I have is a sense of freedom and being able to do things I truly enjoy. In Jingdezhen, I don’t have to do things that I don’t like.
After spending a long time in Jingdezhen, it seems like my mindset has become more peaceful. I appreciate nature and often venture into the mountains to observe plants, go fishing, drink tea, and enjoy the beauty of nature. There is a sense of returning to simplicity and embracing nature.
Jingdezhen also has a wealth of artistic resources and talented individuals. It has attracted a group of young people who are venturing into ceramics. From time to time, I even have the opportunity to learn a new craft, which is very interesting.
Do you communicate a lot with other young ceramicists?
We often communicate with each other. When we have time, we climb mountains and fish together, drink tea and barbecue. Everyone comes from a different city, we can eat different local dishes, everyone has different specialties, we also help each other in our daily life.
The ceramic market here is particularly bustling, with each creator showing their own unique style and patterns. How can you find your own place in such a competitive environment?
The creators in Jingdezhen are mostly self-motivated and driven by their own unique style and creativity. With numerous exhibitions, markets, and cultural exchange opportunities, one can easily encounter emerging elements from fellow colleagues, which continuously inspires creativity. Amidst the peaceful surroundings and with plenty of time, every creator is constantly studying and exploring their own craft, leading to more breakthroughs and personal growth.
While the market culture may bring about a competitive atmosphere, I think what I should do is just to remain focused on my own craft, preserving my original intention, constantly honing myself, and achieving my own goals with determination. So, keep trying and enjoy the process!
The time I spent working and living in Jingdezhen gave me a deeper understanding of ceramic culture, and I gradually became fascinated by traditional culture. The design of these two cameras was inspired by the blue and white porcelain of Jingdezhen. Blue and white porcelain is one of the varieties of Chinese ceramics that began in the Tang and Song dynasties and has a history of more than a thousand years. With its white background and elegant atmosphere, the beauty of porcelain is not only the delicacy of the picture, but also the cultural beauty brought by the aesthetic consensus that has been passed down from generation to generation.
The Lomo’Instant Automat design is based on the traditional auspicious pattern "Deer and Crane in Spring", encapsulating the flourishing essence of spring and symbolizing not just nature but also embodying prosperity. While the Lomo’Instant design is a combination of several very common traditional patterns.
What challenges and rewards did you encounter during the process of hand-painting these instant cameras?
The main challenge I faced while hand-painting the camera was the difficulty in reproducing intricate details. It required multiple attempts and optimizations. However, during this process, I had the opportunity to meet many passionate instant camera enthusiasts and interesting ceramic artists, which added to the overall joy and satisfaction of the experience.
I noticed that you also frequently use instant cameras for photography. Could you share your experience using Lomography instant cameras?
Lomography instant cameras come with a variety of fun application lenses, which adds to their playfulness. They also support long exposure, allowing for light painting creations. The lenses have three focal length settings, and the lens cap can even be used as a remote control. Additionally, the flash can accommodate filters, and all of these features are included in the camera set without the need for additional modifications, making them comprehensive and professional.
Do you have a favorite instant photo?
A picture I took with a very favorite ceramic artist when I went to an exhibition is one of my favorite photos. In addition, I also take my Instant camera with me when I travel, and it's especially handy for hitting the sights and taking pictures of landscapes with good friends.
What unique aspects do you feel when using Lomography instant cameras compared to traditional photography equipment?
One unique aspect of using Lomography instant cameras is the instant development process, which adds to the anticipation and excitement. Compared to traditional photography equipment, instant cameras completely eliminate the hassle of post-processing and the need for reprinting photos, making them more convenient.
Apart from ceramics, what other hobbies or interests do you have?
Besides ceramics, I enjoy taking photos with friends, exploring new photographic techniques, modifying cameras, and collecting cameras that I like.
Could you share some of your upcoming creative plans?
I plan to continue combining my hobbies and interests to create more interesting ceramic artworks. For example, I would like to make ceramic refrigerator magnets or small ornaments related to instant cameras.