In the summer of 2011, Misty Gamble, invited Jessie Fisher and Leandra Urrutia to the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts for an AIA Residency led by Gamble. It was there that they met and worked with Master Sculptor, Bangmin Nong and formed an immediate friendship and an aesthetic connection. At the center of that connection was clay and the study of sculptural form based on topics in figuration and formal mastery. In the summer of 2013, joined by Scott Seebart, these four American artists and educators traveled to China for an intensive six-week collaboration and cultural exchange of traditions and expansive approaches to painting and sculpture.
In the southern province of China, working together at Studio Nong and the Huayi NiXing Pottery Company, the American artists formed an intimate relationship with four sculptors and professors from the GuangXi Arts Institute, Nanning, in the GuangXi Provence of Southern China. Their institute is a rigorous art school of approximately one thousand students, both undergraduate and graduate, in a program that is deeply rooted in the academic study of figuration as a means for personal expression and an integration of all sculptural practices, ranging from clay to casting to metals.
The collective, along with graduate students, caterers, and assistants, worked from dawn to dusk with uninterrupted studio time, unlimited NiXing clay, and limitless technical resources on the top floor of a spacious pottery factory with private apartments and two large studios. With the addition of a showroom, nightly calligraphy lessons, a magnificent tearoom, master potters in residence throwing a range of exquisite teacups to six-foot tall vases, visiting calligraphy masters carefully carving intricate designs into dry clay and a daily stream of visitors, it was truly a singular environment within which to work.
This ongoing exchange of methodologies, stemming from common interests, produced a wide range of work during such a compressed but intensive period. With sculptural works ranging from academic figuration to mixed-media installation and image-based works of illusory space and calligraphic abstractions, these artists produced an impressive start to their growing collaboration.
In August of 2013, an exhibition of works completed at QinZhou Haiyan NiXing Pottery Company and Studio Nong were shown at the QinZhou NiXing Pottery Museum at the Olympic Stadium in QinZhou. This exhibition marked the first in a series of international residencies and exhibitions that lay ahead for this group who have now found themselves working together in the United States at the ceramics studios of the Memphis College of Art and the Kansas City Art Institute in 2015; meeting again in Kansas City for the 50th Anniversary of the National Conference for the Education of Ceramic Arts (NCECA 2016). The American artists will now return to China in the summer of 2016 with three student interns to work in the new Studio Nong facilities in JingdeZhen and Nanning City, China.