Craft: Sunflower Seeds, From Arcadia to the Tate Modern

November 19, 2010

Becky Stern, from the online magazine Craft, first saw artist Ai Weiwei’s sunflower seeds at Arcadia University in spring 2010, and she writes on Nov. 19 of experiencing an even larger display at the Tate Modern in London in a story on "Millions of Hand-Painted Porcelain Sunflower Seeds."

“Each sunflower seed is produced using a ceramic mold, then cleaned up a bit, handpainted and fired in a kiln. The final results are almost indestinguishable from the real thing. I had the opportunity to see a full ton of Ai WeiWei's sunflower seeds at an exhibition put together by Arcadia University (that subsequently traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Ore.), and even that relatively small amount of seeds shifted my paradigm. By contrast, the Tate Modern contains over 150 million tons of the porcelain seeds,” writes Stern.

“I can testify to the vastness of Jingdezhen and its capacity to create massive amounts of product. By Ai WeiWei's estimate, more than 1600 people were employed in Jingdezhen to produce the Tate exhibition. Enjoy the video that I posted above. It shows Jingdezhen in all of its squalor and glory. The young women in Jingdezhen almost always dress to the nines when they're working in the studio. The footage in the video of ladies in their high heels is right in line with my own experience.”

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