Demystifying Xi-Pi Liu Li- A unique Chinese Lacquer
technique pioneered by Ji Huang,By Ashwini Pai Bahadur

Ji Huang, Black Xipi Glass Low Jar with copper rim, 2019, glass copper,
Image courtesy : Ji Huang , Collection : Victoria & Albert Museum London

The Xi Pi pattern is a particular lacquer decoration technique, dating back to ancient China. It is the result of brushing multiple layers of alternation of coloured lacquer over a textured surface, and then grinding and polishing it to a flat surface to reveal an undulating pattern. This resembles a topographical map. Renowned international glass artist Ji Huang has pioneered this technique to create this effect in Blown Glass. The contrast of different colour layers, the undulating patterns of light and shadow, are the essences of Xi Pi Glass. Intrigued by this style and completely captivated by the craft, Ji Huang works on accumulating the technical knowledge within different materials.  His work utilises master techniques while reinventing the craft through cultural amalgamation.

Polishing the Xi Pi Glass Vessel.
Turqouise Xi Pi Glass Vessel 2019

The glassmaker pursued his passion, graduating in Ceramics and Glass at the Royal College of Art in London as well as Glass Studies from the University of Washington. He carries innumerable accolades such as the Bonhams Prize from the Venice Glass Week, A nomination for the 7th International Marianne Brandt Award, CGS New Graduate Review 2019 Highly Recommended Artist, University of Washington Leadership Certificate and more.  While studying for his undergraduate degree, Ji Huang loved to experiment with algorithms and physics simulation to generate abstract sculptures. His interests in virtual reality lead him to create awe-striking pieces.

Red and Black Xipi Vessel ,ParametricScholar’s Rocks Base 2019,
Blown Glass, 3D printed polymer, Lacquer

He strongly feels that as a new generation Chinese glass artist, it is not only his goal to learn from the craft traditions of western glass making, but also absorb and embrace the influences and craft traditions of his own culture. This he claims is his contribution to glass making which he shares with the world.

Ji Huang at work in his studios in Murano, Italy
Ji Huang at work in his studios in Murano, Italy

During the three weeks preceding the 2019 Venice Glass Week, Ji Huang was invited as artist in residence to the Auton Ma-Pilchuck partnership to collaborate in creating a site specific installation for the Musee Del Vetrogarden. Using a digital bubble algorithm they focused on the local Muranese architecture in the form of an arch. Created with stainless steel and incorporating recycled found glass objects the work utilizes craft skills from around the island of Murano.

Snatches from our conversatons

Glassmakers Raghvi Bhatia and Ji Huang in conversation
introduced by Ashwini Pai Bahadur

The very talented and innovative Ji Huang,locked down in Canada, shared with us over an Insta Live session his experiences and his journey pioneering this very unique complex glassmaking technique Xi Pi Liu Li . Inspired by the tradition of xi pi lacquer technique from China, achieved through the venetian glass making tradition. The results are breathtaking and elegant and not surprisingly resulted in an acquisition into the permanent collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Red Yellow Xi Pi Glass Vessel 2019

When asked the artist confesses that he chose glass as his material to hone due to his fascination and inspiration derived from the vast history of glass making. Determined to master the technique, he strives to invent new creations. His current work delves into the tedious yet satisfying process of Xi Pi Liu Li- an intensive, complex glass-making technique helming from Jihuang himself. Ji’s goal lies in combining the transparency of glass and Xi Pi Pattern to accentuate the effect of light, colour and shadow of the pristine material. While each piece takes a month in completing- Ji is a perfectionist; therefore less than one third of the byproducts meet his final standard. Ji likes to be surprised and attempts to create each piece looking different from the first- channelling his creativity and phishing the boundaries of creation as he goes along.  Speaking on the struggles of recognition being a Chinese artist residing in a western world, Ji feels segregated from the rest of the world, metaphorically segregated in empathy via a glass wall. Ji translates his emotions and experiences within his glasswork through the ‘Glass Hat’ As a craft material, glass presents inherent challenges and opportunities, explains Ji.  Glass is extremely fragile, more fragile than most ceramics. The material’s transparency demands no mistakes. Glasswork must be perfect from every angle.

HRH Prince of Wales with ji Huang at Royal College of Art,London,UK

As a new-age Chinese artist, Ji carries legacies of the past while creating the new, carrying forth a legacy very much his own.