There is a double tiered, multi-level ranking system for artists and craftspeople in Mainland China. Yixing teapot makers are generally categorized under “Industrial Artists” with various ranks.
Ranking: Money Matters
Yixing pot makers who have a higher rank usually fetch much higher price for their products because there is a tendency for rapid value appreciation as the artist further rises in the rank or gets certain other recognition, such as winning certain prizes in one of those national annual exhibitions or competitions. When a person’s works gain enough momentum in collection value, his/her decease normally draws even more dramatic demand. Teapots made by those at the top can easily fetch tens of thousand USD a piece, contrasting the price in the tens or hundreds of most other good craftspeople.
There is the national tier and the provincial tier in the rank system. Because of competition for economic and cultural performance amongst provinces, and the influence of guanxi , rank recognition at the province tier is a lot more common place. It has not much meaning so we don’t mention it here. The national tier, on the other hand, requires a lot more effort (that is not to say that the works of guanxi or other shady practices not exist here). Anyway, a national industrial artist label justifies for a lot more values than provincial industrial artist.
Utilitarian and Investment Values
For making this relevant to your choice of a teapot; or rather our choice of a teapot for putting up to offer in our shop, we select not basing only on whether a piece is by a ranked artist, but rather also by its aesthetics, workmanship, material quality, utilitarian values in addition to investment potential. The price is a proportional reflection of the sum of these factors. It is also competitive against that of comparable quality in internet shops in Mainland China.
Before we go on to list the ranking, we have to also point out that there are other artisans who do not enroll in this rank system for various reasons. Lack of effective guanxi or the means to it most often is an important reason. Some work independently, others in small groups or workshops, yet others freelancing for various studios, factories or famous artists. We skip the rank description for these kind of artists. Good independent artisans, nevertheless, sometimes have better collection values because of the steep appreciation they may gain upon other forms of recognitions. They do sometimes win national prizes amongst nationally ranked ones.
As for the rank list, we are unable to find consistent and appropriate translations of the names of the ranks so we have come up with a set on our own. We think it reflects most accurately the original Chinese names of the ranks. This is the list, in decreasing order of seniority:
- Grand Master Industrial Artist (Further divided into grades 1~4)
- Senior Master Industrial Artist
- Master Industrial Artist
- Associate Master Industrial Artist
- Industrial Artist
- Yixing Teapots: The Clays
- Handcrafting Yixing Teapots
- Ergonomic Criteria for a Yixing Teapot
- Standard Traditional Forms
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