NANCHANG, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- After teaching ceramics for over two decades in the United States, ceramist Bobby Scroggins decided to temporarily leave the teaching rostrum to stay in Jingdezhen, a city in east China's Jiangxi Province.
A professor at the University of Kentucky, Scroggins rents a workshop in the city, where he can make use of abundant local resources while drawing inspiration from the city.
"The production level in my country is lower, and the work is more stylized and individualized. But here, I can turn various ideas into ideal porcelain with the help of local clay and craftsmen," said Scroggins, who came to Jingdezhen two weeks ago and plans to stay for another month.
Jingdezhen, known as China's "Porcelain Capital", is renowned for producing fine pottery since the fourth century. It now aims to become an international center for the ceramic arts.
In 2011, more than 3,000 foreign artists visited Jingdezhen to learn or practice porcelain-making. Many were attracted by the city's ready supply of quality clay, skilled craftsmen and tradition of handicraft.
"I'm very fortunate to be here because I can take the technology and experience that I work here to inform my students," Scroggins said.
Grace Nickel, a professor from the School of Art at the University of Manitoba in Canada, has made three visits to Jingdezhen to learn how to make porcelain models.
"I've made a lot of models used in fabric industry in my country and I am pretty good at it, but the skills of the modelmakers here are incredibly professional. What is more surprising is that everything here is still handmade," she said.
To attract foreign artists, the Jingdezhen city government has added rentable studios and promoted related services, such as outsourced ceramic baking, accommodation and interpretation.
Foreigner-friendly workshops have become a booming business and there are now over 1,000 such facilities in the city, many of which act as liasons between foreign ceramic designers and local craftsmen.
"More than 1,000 foreign artists have stayed in my workshop," said Zheng Yi, who set up the Pottery Workshop, one of the largest in Jingdezhen, in 2005.
"Some ceramic designers create the works themselves, while others consign ceramic-structuring and firing to local masters," said a staff member at the Sanbao Ceramic Art Institute.
Diana Williams, an Australian ceramic artist who came to Jingdezhen seven years ago, was the first foreigner to buy a house in the city.
"This is a Mecca for ceramic artists. There are so many great artists and skillful craftsmen here, and the supporting services are excellent," she said.
Zhou Ronglin, director of the Jingdezhen Ceramic Cultural Heritage Research and Protection Center, said the arrival of foreign artists has added new elements to the country's traditional handicraft industry.
"They are helping China's traditional handicraft production take a more market-oriented and open-minded approach, which will benefit the spread of Chinese arts around the world," he said.