Jiani Ma

Handmade ceramic ware

Practicum Project

The Story of Clay – A Little Potter’s Notebook (陶人手記)

The Story of Clay is a picture book on the making of Chinese Zisha tea-ware for children and adults. My book explains the production of the renowned Zisha (紫砂) tea-ware through the narrative of a boy nicknamed the “little potter” (yes, I had the “little prince” in my mind). I try to introduce the aesthetic and technical aspects of Zisha in a precise but playful way, by inviting my readers to a journey of building, learning, and growing up. Through the protagonist’s interaction with his parents/teachers, I also portray the working condition of local craftsmen in a Yixing (宜興) workshop. I look forward to developing this book manuscript into publishing projects.


Haicheng Wang, Chair
Stuart Lingo

Chinese calligraphy: regular script after the style of Chu Suiliang

Jiani Ma
Master of Arts
Art History

My Master’s practicum project is a story book on the Chinese Zisha tea-ware, entitled The Story of Clay – A Little Potter’s Notebook (陶人手記). I chose to make a book, instead of writing a thesis, because of my research interest in Chinese craftsmanship, as well as my bachelor’s education in Fine Arts (especially Chinese painting, calligraphy, and ceramics) at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

In this project, I try to combine academic research with artistic illustration, and I had great fun in drafting and making from scratch. I sincerely appreciate the strong support from my advisor, Professor Wang, who shares with me a passion for illustrated manuscripts. I also received insightful advice from my committee members, Professor Wang and Professor Lingo, who were willing to sit down and read my story from page to page. Our discussion covered issues from publishing strategy, targeted audience, and parental pedagogy, to the use of language and the selection of materials.

After graduation, I will study Illustration at the Art Academy University (AAU) in San Francisco for one year, and I look forward to developing this experimental manuscript into publishable projects. In the future, I will split this book into special versions designed for different age groups. I will also produce a bi-lingual version for both the Chinese and American audience.