"ByHuaHua", Art on Your Table -Ceramicist Chia-En Chen
Updated: Aug 1
Chia-En Chen, Founder of ByHuaHua
編輯 Edited by｜謝蕎安 Joanne Hsieh
文字、圖片提供 Text and Image courtesy｜陳迦恩 Chia-En Chen
翻譯 Translation by｜李家儀 Joyce Lee
苗栗 Miaoli, Taiwan
Please tell us a little about yourself.
Hello, my name is Chia-En Chen. I was born in the central city of Taichung, Taiwan, and raised in a seaside district called Qingshui. Growing up by the shore, I developed a special connection with the sea. I'm alway taken back to my childhood when feeling the sea breeze — running in the breeze with a strong sense of self. This unique feeling makes me ponder over the beginning of life, and the co-existence of myself and Mother Nature.
When and How did you decide to work in pottery?
One day in a pottery store, I stumbled upon a clay tea cup. Instinctively, I wanted to hold it in my hand. I wasn’t sure why I was drawn to it, but couldn’t stop touching it and examining it. It’s like I felt the clay was intimately related to me. I was deeply fascinated, and longed to understand it.
Where is your studio located?
I love the tranquility of nature. My father shares the same interest, he owns a gallery in the town of Sanyi in Miaoli County thats surrounded by green hills, and I chose to have a studio nearby. There are wild grass lands all around the studio. The primal nature scenery is the reason I stay here. In this idyllic country life, I can observe the seasons change, the regrowth of wild grass, and the circle of life.
What are some studio session rituals?
I try to meditate before I start working each session. I started to meditate after I got ill two years ago. When my mind is completely quiet, ideas come naturally. Meditation is like sitting in a silent world, and listening to the breathings, and feeling the creativity and power that comes from life itself. Inspiration might come from a flower, a strand of grass, a barren land, a forest, or a beam of light; a drop of water, or a fleeting moment of beauty. For however long, there has been a fading image of infinite barren land in my mind. This image calms me down; it might seem desolate, but it’s comforting.
I don’t have a specific work routine, but I like to interact with my work space. I’d light a candle, an incense, or make myself a cup of tea, and sit down to enjoy it. It’s a space I have to face every day. Music is an inseparable element to me. It helps me enter the silence space in my mind. I listen to spiritual, primal, rhythmic, and classical music. Some artists I like include Minisol, Olafur Arnalds, Broove, Angus MacRae, and Deva Premal.
(In this little area in between the two levels in the lofted studio is where Chen takes time to meditate and make tea in between studio sessions.)
What is the meaning behind the studio and brand name "白花花 BY HUAHUA"?
The name BY HUA HUA comes from my impression of nature and mind. The character “花 Hua,” meaning flower, is repeated twice to resemble the law of nature. Flowers blossom and flowers wither; it’s a plain existence. Other than the literal meanings, I like the rhythm the name creates by repeating the same character twice. The second “hua” should be pronounce with a higher pitch and neutral tone, almost like a breath sound. It represents life thrives and blossoms, and eventually fades away, becoming like evaporated air or smoke.
As a brand name, By Hua Hua is like a circle in which “by” is the center and “hua hua” spreads out from it. This simple name reminds us of new found joys in ordinary lives. Feeling contended for the simple things; things that are pure and clear. The message the brand name sends out is warmth, and living out one’s true nature, like how nature always presents itself in unpretentious and truthful forms. To live is to live with truth, kindness, and beauty. Hua Hua symbolizes the impermanence in the ordinary. Life and death exist for this very reason, and the cycle goes on infinitely.
Tell us about some of your favorite bodies of work.
There are two series of work so far. “The Joy of Traveling through the Landscape” sprouted from a random encounter at a second-hand bookstore. I found a copy of “Jieziyuan Huapu,” a compilation of Qing era Chinese ink paintings of natural elements. The simple renderings in the book captured the essence of nature. I slowly learned to paint in the same style, and the ink lines transfer thoughts into reality. Painting every scene and creation feels like traveling through them, and stroke by stroke I tried to express the tranquil joy it brings me. Between heaven and earth, and between every tree, everywhere is teeming with lush greens.
Sometime I’d create a fun scenery by placing indoor objects in outdoor settings, in order to blur the line between the two spaces. It’s a metaphor for blurring the boundary of my inner and outer self, for the purpose of expanding the horizon and widening my heart.
Another series titled “Slience – the Sign,” the visual experience is about inner observation. Composing of only lines, and using brushes and sponges, ink is splashed or painted on the surface. Every stroke complements each other, and is adjusted while observing my inner feelings. The process is about understanding the subtle shifts between self-consciousness and nature. Layer by layer, the silent stroke is spontaneously created. For this series, I don’t make sketches or plan the composition beforehand, but instead focus on the creation process.
The latest series, “Two Ends of a Peach,” uses the organic shape of peaches as models, and makes tiny adjustments to connect with imagination. “Two ends” in the title hints at the possibilities of organisms. I hope the experience of aging can taste like a peach – sweet and close to the seed you planted in your heart.
“Silence” series is the beginning of my career. I enjoyed the feeling of rebirth while working on this series. What motivates me is the process. It is silent and natural, like lights reflecting on the sea, tranquil and powerful. It feels like sinking to the bottom of a soundless ocean, and navigating and observing silently from there. I observe the infinite possibilities deep inside, and see vivid creativity.
"Art and business is the integration of virtuality and reality."
How do you balance between "sales" and remain true to your artistic vision?
By Hua Hua focuses on ceramic ware, so the top priority in the creation process is usability. I consider the physical and emotional interaction between the user and the ware. The balance between artistic and commercial purpose is the emotional interaction. When I’m creating, the mindset affects the balance. If I consider the commercial aspect too much, and make wares that buyers like, then I drift away from my intention. As a result, the work may not be moving. If I only consider the artistic aspect, then self-concept would take up more room than the ware itself. It is also a deviation from the original intent.
I think the focus should be on the ware, and reveal the nature of it. The ware is a medium, and when creating it’s important to see and feel the ware, and it shall inspire you. I can’t think about past works that I liked or were successful, and set to make something similar. I follow my feelings as it flows out, and transfer it onto the work. Every failure is a lesson learned, and it teaches me how to achieve the right balance. Art and business is the integration of virtuality and reality. When it is balanced, it fills one’s heart with contentment. The physical and emotional interaction makes the experience feel real and blissful. In the fast-paced information age, art is food for the soul. If we utilize business as a means to spread art, the artwork can inspire dreams and imaginations. Modern business is a sharp knife, and art is the chef. We can make good use of every knife and find a balance, and create delicious artworks that every mind can enjoy.
What are some challenges you've encountered both as an artist and as a brand?
I’ve met challenges that require spiritual self-breakthrough. These include when I encounter blocks, whether I can stop and cool my mind before continuing. Or how the use of medium and techniques will most perfectly match my inner feelings. Sometimes I have to wait for inspiration to come in silence. Also, to make sure I’m clear about what I’m doing every moment of the creation process.
The biggest challenge however, I’ve faced so far is the values of society. In this competitive society, how do I keep my true intentions and message, and receive acceptance from the public? The most important thing behind a unique style in a persistent will, and the will guides you to your dream.
Sources of funds is another challenge that tests whether artists use their current funds to maximum efficiency. Whether the sales of every batch of work matches the capital. I have to figure out how to make the public accept my views on life. Moreover, what kind of people your work attracts that ends up interacting with you? And from that interaction, whether I’m able to learn how people view my work.
What are some most memorable events?
A friend brought my work to France, and gave it to a farm owner as a gift. Seeing the joy them felt when they touched the work was unforgettable. Despite living in a different country, art can be a silent communication of the hearts. Just like when meeting each other face to face, the genuine smiles create a mutual understanding without words.
Another memorable experience was when I shared an article online about the relation between my dysautonomia and art creation. Not long after, a buyer saw the article and contacted me. He had a friend with the same condition, and bought a piece to give to his friend, hoping it would have therapeutic effects on him. The act encouraged me greatly, and I felt the therapeutic effect too. I’m grateful of this buyer because I was reminded how the power of the heart can always help you face your true self.
What are some long and short-term goals for you?
My goal this year is to take good care of my physical and mental health, so I can travel abroad. Receive more invitation to participate in exhibitions, and also learn to play the djembe.
Special thanks to Chia-En Chen at ByHUAHUA.
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Extended Reading：巫術及藝術--Astral Oracles, Artist and Wizard:L