An intimate narrative history of porcelain, structured around five journeys through landscapes where porcelain was dreamed about, fired, refined, collected, and coveted.
Extraordinary new nonfiction, a gripping blend of history and memoir, by the author of the award-winning and bestselling international sensation, The Hare with the Amber Eyes.
In The White Road, bestselling author and artist Edmund de Waal gives us an intimate narrative history of his lifelong obsession with porcelain, or "white gold." A potter who has been working with porcelain for more than forty years, de Waal describes how he set out on five journeys to places where porcelain was dreamed about, refined, collected and coveted-and that would help him understand the clay's mysterious allure. From his studio in London, he starts by travelling to three "white hills"-sites in China, Germany and England that are key to porcelain's creation. But his search eventually takes him around the globe and reveals more than a history of cups and figurines; rather, he is forced to confront some of the darkest moments of twentieth-century history.
Part memoir, part history, part detective story, The White Road chronicles a global obsession with alchemy, art, wealth, craft, and purity. In a sweeping yet intimate style that recalls The Hare with the Amber Eyes, de Waal gives us a singular understanding of "the spectrum of porcelain" and the mapping of desire.
Artist de Waal (The Hare with Amber Eyes), a potter by trade, blends art history and personal travelogue in this immersive hands-on study of porcelain and its commercial and artistic appeal over the centuries. Beginning in Jingdezhen, China, where porcelain was first fired 1,000 years ago, de Waal gradually works his way west to 18th-century Europe specifically the German city of Dresden, and Plymouth on the South Coast of England and eventually to Ayoree Mountain in what is now North Carolina. He enlivens his account with portraits of the people whose quirky personalities and entrepreneurial zeal advanced the manufacture of porcelain across Europe, among them mathematician Ehrenfried von Tschirnhaus, who partnered with alchemist Johann Friedrich B ttger to develop "a porcelain body for a pure white clay through which light can pass." De Waal punctuates his chronicle with descriptions of his own work in the medium and poetic reflections on the art form: for example, he describes the cobalt used in designs on porcelain pots as a pigment "that allows the world to be turned into stories," and the quest for a porcelain "so white and true and perfect, that the world around it is thrown into shadows." The book transforms an otherwise esoteric subject into a truly remarkable story.