Published on 15 November 2023
Thanks to his reputation, research and knowledge of ceramics, the University of Sunderland’s Dr Neil Ewins has been presented with an Honorary Visiting Professorship following a visit to Jingdezhen Ceramic University in China’s Jiangxi province.
The production of porcelain in the Jingdezhen region dates back over 1,000 years and Chinese President Xi Jinping recently visited the area, increasingly recognised and celebrated as a significant ancient capital of porcelain.
The Ceramic University is interested in preserving the area’s ceramic heritage, and last month held a Symposium, attracting speakers from around the world.
Neil was invited to deliver a research paper, based on a book he wrote entitled Ceramics and Globalization, published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2017. This publication related to one of the themes addressed by the Symposium, which was the significance of regionalism and heritage, in a context of shifting production to where labour costs are the lowest.
The Senior Lecturer in Design History, whose main area of research has focused on UK ceramic heritage, says: “Primarily I was invited to present my research paper, but the University also asked me to give an additional presentation to students and staff. In so doing, they have made me an Honorary Visiting Professor at Jingdezhen Ceramic University which is a great honour indeed.
“This was also a fantastic experience as I met a variety of significant people, including many of the Jingdezhen professors. There were also German representatives from Burg University at the Symposium.”
Neil says the Ceramic University is keen to collaborate on future research projects with the University of Sunderland. During his week-long visit, he was taken to some important heritage sites, where early ceramic production occurred, such as Jinkeng village, where there is evidence of sherds and kiln furniture, dating back to the 13th Century.
He was also taken to a traditional pottery and kiln used by potters in the Jingdezhen region, preserved by the Ceramic University.
Neil says: “This was incredible to see. Jingdezhen Ceramic University also has its own museum on the campus. Here they go to go to fabulous lengths to show the history of ceramic production, as well as showcase the work of alumni, students and staff.”
He added: “I feel far more knowledgeable about Chinese ceramics than before. Even though I have read many books about Chinese ceramics and have examined their ceramics in western museums, seeing the places where the materials were actually mined, prepared, and the techniques used for the production of porcelain, has certainly given me far more insight into Chinese ceramics.
“I am looking forward to sharing this new information with my BA students in Glass and Ceramics.”
The Symposium invite came about thanks to Professor Neil Brownsword of Staffordshire University, who was already attending, and introduced Neil to Professor Tiejun Hou of the Jingdezhen Ceramic University.
Neil says: “Professor Tiejun went to enormous lengths to get me to the Symposium, and also the Professorship. I am really grateful to him, and he was a brilliant host during my visit.”
Professor Tiejun, Dean of School of International Studies, said: "We are honored to appoint Dr Neil Ewins to be our Visiting Professor for his excellent research on the influence of globalisation on the ceramic industry in UK and China. We hope to establish more co-operation in terms of academic research and international communication with British ceramic scholars and institutions to promote the development of our shared heritage via Dr Ewins in the future."
Professor Arabella Plouviez, Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Creative Industries at the University of Sunderland, said: “It is fantastic for Neil’s research to be recognised in this way, through this Honorary Visiting Professorship and it is testament to the significance of his work. An excellent achievement.”
Jingdezhen Ceramics University is the only multidisciplinary university in China named after ceramics, and in the world, it boasts a complete talent cultivation system including undergraduate, graduate and PhD students.