Friday, November 07, 2008

China's Time-Honored Brand

A few weeks back, I stumbled upon a list of factory tours one can take here in Beijing. Jackpot! You see, Desi has a soft spot for outings like this...think Hammond's Candies in Denver.

Not only that, but four years ago, a visit to a cloisonne (spelling?) factory was a memorable little part of our whirlwind spin through the city we now call home. This was such a blast that a return trip was definitely on Desi's list. But how do you find a location that isn't mentioned in any tour book we have seen? There's certainly no "Cloisonne Factory" metro stop to make the task any easier!

Without telling Desi where we were heading, we jumped onto a bus and then two subway lines, making our way to a neighborhood that we had not yet ventured to. Walking through the streets toward our destination, I almost choked when Desi observed a bunch of tour bus and remarked there must be some sort of factory tour nearby.

It wasn't, though, until we arrived at the alleyway (yes, alleyway!) where the Beijing Enamel Factory is located that Desi knew for sure what I had cooked up for the morning. It's so funny how a place we had been to only once in the past, and only for a few minutes at that, could leave such a vivid impression on us. There was no doubt that this was the place. We could almost see ourselves stepping off the tour bus, wearing our yellow hats with red brims.

Inside, things were just as familiar...except this time we got to stroll through the factory on our terms. We spent quite a while watching one worker use her syringe to put a new coat of enamel on a piece that had been fired at least once already. Her routine was almost mesmerizing...

Squeeze the syringe while holding it in a small bowl of green enamel.

Gently squirt the enamel onto the green portions of the vase, letting the precisely designed and placed copper wires do their work as the boundaries between colors.

Place a small tissue onto the sections that have just been painted, to soak up the moisture and allow for quick drying.


Pick up the tissue and squeeze the water out onto the floor.

Outside the production area, the scene was mesmerizing in a totally different way. You see, this is the reason why so many tour groups are herded through the factory in the first place...to emerge into a glitzy series of rooms stocked full of cloisonne pieces for sale. There are huge vases on display, but these are really there only for picture taking purposes. Most visitors, including the two of us, go for the pots, animal statues, and other little mementos that line glass case after glass case.

With all of that learning and fun under our belts, I can't wait for that trip to the Yanjing Pijiu factory...

~Steve

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