Alfred University News

Higby returns to the 'Porcelain City'

Wayne Higby, Alfred University Professor of Ceramic Art and Director of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, returned on Dec. 12, 2023, to the Chinese city of Jingdezhen, known as the “Porcelain City.”


From the 14th century to the present-day, Jingdezhen has been globally associated with the production of porcelain. The word “China,” used ubiquitously as the country’s name, is derived from the Jingdezhen’s historical name: Changnan. Today, it is a city of approximately 1.5 million residents most of whom have a connection to porcelain production.

Higby was first invited to visit the city in 1992. At that time, as a result of China’s mid-20th century history of isolationism, most of the art world had forgotten about Jingdezhen, although art museums around the globe held important examples of Jingdezhen ware. Higby is credited with reintroducing Jingdezhen to the international ceramic art community as well as inspiring the internationalization of contemporary Chinese ceramic art.  As a result, in 2004 he became the first foreign national to be named an Honorary Citizen of Jingdezhen.

This past December, Higby joined the awards jury for The Journey of Ceramics biennale, which today is one of the world’s largest international ceramic art competitions. It is sponsored by Jingdezhen Ceramic University, the only multidisciplinary university named after ceramics.

On the morning of Dec. 15, the president of JCU introduced Higby as part of his opening remarks, which set the stage for the opening ceremonies of the exhibition. During his remarks the president detailed a story about Higby’s visits to the University in the early 1990s, when the president was a graduate student, and how these visits encouraged him as a young artist to rethink the way he understood ceramic art.

At another event in the weeklong festivities Higby was acknowledged by the president of the Jingdezhen Tourist Association to be a living legend of Jingdezhen. Higby also met with the cultural attaché of the American Embassy in Beijing as well as gave interviews for China Central TV and local news agencies including several JCU student publications.

Higby with attache
Wayne Higby, right, meets with Adh Stevens, cultural attaché of the American Embassy in Beijing. Stevens is in charge of public engagement and exchange programs.

 Higby also served as a featured speaker for the Ceramic Road: International Ceramic Education Alliance charter symposium. ICEA was founded by Jingdezhen Ceramic University, the International Academy of Ceramics, Geneva, Switzerland and the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum at Alfred University as a means to establish a non-governmental, non-profit international ceramic art educational platform to promote international exchanges and cooperation via information sharing with respect to ceramic art and cultural diversity. Numerous Chinese institutions were represented at the symposium along with representatives from Europe and Latin America.

On the final day of a week of awards, jury duty, openings, and symposiums, including a conference on Art and Industry Cooperation, Higby gave a lecture for the students, faculty and staff of Jingdezhen Ceramic University. To a standing room only audience Higby talked about his own work as an artist and the mission of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum at Alfred University. Upon concluding his remarks, the students surprised Higby with numerous bouquets of flowers.

Higby remarked to the gathering that “it is our friendships that shape who we are” and thanked everyone for a once-in-a-lifetime celebration of friendship upon his return to the “Porcelain City.”

Higby with flowers

Wayne Higby receives flowers from the students at Jingdezhen Ceramic University.