Chinese miniature ceramic maker ‘wows’ TikTok netizens
Small world
Published: Dec 19, 2021 06:39 PM

Wang Wenhua  Mini vases made by Wang Wenhua 
Photos: Courtesy of Wang Wenhua

Mini vases made by Wang Wenhua Photo: Courtesy of Wang Wenhua

Wang Wenhua  Mini vases made by Wang Wenhua 
Photos: Courtesy of Wang Wenhua

Wang Wenhua Photo: Courtesy of Wang Wenhua

Shaping, drying, glazing and firing… In less than five minutes, a mini vase only millimeters in size starts to take shape as viewers watch on. As the founder of a miniature ceramics studio, Wang Wenhua never expected that his work would surprise viewers in China let alone those abroad, and that his short videos would earn over 45 million views and 4.2 million likes on Douyin, the Chinese version of Tik Tok.

Many bloggers from different countries have recorded reaction videos about his content, earning millions of views.

"I was first surprised and then very happy after learning that my porcelain crafts were so popular overseas," Wang told the Global Times. 

The courage to try 

Having worked in China's "Porcelain Capital" Jingdezhen in East China's Jiangxi Province for 14 years, Wang said he had once seen the world's biggest ceramic here but he had never seen the smallest, so he decided one day to try something different -making micro porcelain.

Things were not easy in the beginning, and many people doubted him. 

"They called me 'crazy man' and mocked me when I went to factories and asked them to help make miniature tools for me to create micro pottery, even my wife did not support me," Wang said. 

However, Wang did not give up and eventually figured out how to make this new idea a reality on his own.

After about half a year of experimentation, Wang finally made miniature tools and was able to complete his first miniature porcelain - a vase.

"When I decided to give it a try and post the short video of my work on my Douyin account in 2018, I didn't expect that it would become so popular - I got millions of views," he recalled.  

High compliments from Chinese netizens gave Wang the confidence that he needed to continue his career.

According to Wang, the key to making a miniature ceramic work is concentration and a pair of steady hands. After numerous attempts, Wang found that the smallest he could get were works about 2 millimeters in size, otherwise he would need to use a microscope. 

"It would probably miss my original intention if I made micro pottery using a microscope, so I have focused  more attention on making the smaller pieces more exquisite and complex," said Wang.

The smallest vase that Wang has made is a bowl only 2 millimeters tall, 3 millimeters wide and 1 millimeter thick. Wang said he plans to apply to the Guinness World Records for the world's smallest pottery work.

A good era

As a Chinese culture lover, Wang has also made some traditional items including the traditional northern Chinese snack bingtanghulu, or candied Chinese hawthorn. 

"Sometimes, my followers or fans message me with some creative ideas. We have a very good relationship," said Wang, adding that he often interacts with his fans on livestreams. 

He recalled one time he made a fake pottery cigarette butt that it looked so real that some viewers who tuned in late thought it was the real thing.  

Compared with the traditional ceramics, making micro porcelains is much  quicker as the each step in the process can be shortened. 

Currently, Wang can produce about 100 mini vases per day, but more complicated and creative works may take one or two days.

"The works I created are like my children, and I am not willing to sell them unless the buyer is also a pottery lover or they really like my work," said Wang.

Since rising to popularity in 2018, Wang has earned more than 16.6 million views on his Douyin account and his videos have also made it overseas to TikTok. 

Wang said his huge success could not have been accomplished before the short video era as this technology has given him a platform to show his works both in China and abroad. 

The popularity of Chinese culture and the increased attention being paid to traditional Chinese craftsmanship can be another reason behind Wang's success.

"I can feel that young generations really like traditional Chinese handicrafts since most of my buyers are young people, and I have taken on a lot of young apprentices."

According to Wang, he could take on more than 30 apprentices in a month before the COVID-19 epidemic, and even now he sometimes gets one or two students a month amid the pandemic. 

After seeing Wang's huge success online, many ceramic craftsmen have started making miniature ceramics of their own, which Wang said made him feel very "relieved."

According to media reports, videos of Chinese craftsmen making miniature ceramics have earned more than 140 million views on TikTok. In addition to ceramics, traditional Chinese handicrafts such as bamboo weaving, wood carving, paper umbrellas and snuff bottles are also popular on TikTok, introducing the vast array of color that exists in Chinese culture. 

"I think my achievement is mainly due to my passion and love for ceramics," Wang added, noting that he was very touched to learn from master craftsmen in Jingdezhen who had spent most of their lives in making ceramics. 

"I see their spirit of inheritance and many of the craftsmen inherited their skills from the previous generations. My success means bigger responsibility. Ceramics as a traditional Chinese craft is not like the current web celebrity culture. Only by keeping the craftsmen's spirit can I go further," he said.