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The Making of Dancing Blooms, Flying Fish, Spring Lights Converge

Loretta H. Yang

Art Collection Background

Glass blowing work
Figure 1: LIULI artisan turning 30kg of molten crystal


Figure 2: LIULI artisan blowing 30kg of molten crystal

A visit to the infernos of a LIULI studio reveals the intense pain and struggle that comes with mastering an art collection. By the same token, it also reveals the wonder and satisfaction of it. Mastering an art collection takes a brilliant idea, hundreds of tries, some muscle and lots and lots of patience. When “Dancing Blooms, Flying Fish, Spring Lights Converge” hit art galleries and boutiques in 2010, the glass art had already undertaken over a year in transformations, mastered again and again.

White Yulan Luck, A Vase of Riches
Figure 3: "White Yulan Luck, a Vase of Riches"

What is truly challenging about artworks that have never been attempted is transforming the stuff of dreams into reality. The more surreal one’s imagination, the more impossible the attempt. Yet, LIULI artists were adamant about crafting the “bao ping” (or treasure vases)—lavishly ornamented and gold-leaf adorned vessels topped with goldfish and flowers.

Treasure Vase - In Praise of the Tulip, A Vase of Riches
Figure 4: "In Praise of the Tulip, A Vase of Riches"

Not just goldfish and flowers; goldfish moving and transforming into flowers. Goldfish leaping and twisting, flowing with layers of color into layer upon layer of delicate flower petals. Still, that movement, appearing whole and flawless, was not achieved by the imagination alone.

The pate-de-verre discipline of casting crystal sculptures typically requires a few layers of supporting molds. Many pieces of “Dancing Blooms” required up to ten, because the more delicate the flower petal, the stronger it must be. Reflected in the sweat of LIULI craftsmen here is the notion that true elegance, true beauty, is won by back-breaking effort and sweat.

Gilding processFigure 5: Gilding process, LIULI artisan apply gold foil onto 1000C degree bowl.

While the head of each treasure vase in this collection is carefully crafted and re-crafted, the body of it is mouth-blown. Artists hoist 30kg of molten crystal, turning and blowing for hours until a perfect shape is produced. Then, seizing the perfect moment, they then slap on sheets of gold foil to the lava-hot liquid glass. The result is glimmering gold patterns across the body of each artwork, unique to every treasure vase.

“Dancing Blooms, Flying Fish, Spring Lights Converge” takes the historical concept of the “bao ping” and applies it in a way that’s never been done before. As with all lavish and richly decorated treasure vases in history, they reflect a time of sumptuous wealth. But moreover, they reflect the beauty and quality of having wealth… of being generous, kind and elegant.

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Artist/Founder Loretta H. Yang leads a team of experienced artisans to create arts that honor the richness of cultural heritage and value.

Step No. 1: Design and sculpting

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Step 2 of the process involves coating our original clay sculpture in silicone. Layer after layer (3 to 7 layers) is fastidiously coated to produce a negative mold, a crucial step in capturing the prevision of the sculpture. Each layer must dry completely before additional layer is applied, thickness must be uniform to prevent leakage of wax. Once complete, the clay is removed to reveal a negative silicone mold.

Step No. 2: Silicone molding

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Pour molten wax into the negative silicone mold.

Step No. 3: Infusion of molten wax. Fill wax into a negative mold.

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Once wax has solidified and cooled, release the wax form by carefully peeling back the silicone mold. Like a butterfly molting, the silicon is shed to reveal a positive wax form.

Step No. 4: Shedding of silicon mold to obtain the wax form

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A careful refinement of the wax sculpture. Because every microinch and subtlety plays its own role in the grand scheme of beauty. Our artists refine the wax mold to its final perfection.

Step No. 5: Wax form refinement; removing imperfections

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The wax mold is placed on a wooden plank in a metal container and plaster is poured and solidified. Embedding wax form with fire-resistant plaster.

Step No. 6: Coating the wax sculpture with plaster to form a refractory mold

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Wax is steamed out of the plaster under high heat yielding a negative plaster mold.

Step No. 7: Removal of wax with steam—the essence of the “lost-wax” process

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Liuli ingredients are created through unique firing and processing of glass. Color and size appropriate pieces are placed within the plaster and fired.

Step No 8: Choosing color; kiln firing

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Fire and melt. Under intense heat, a new vision of transparency and clarity is born.

Step No. 9: Re-firing at 1,400 degrees Celsius

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Extreme patience and care are necessary when removing the plaster to prevent damage.

Step No. 10: Removal of plaster mold

When the art pieces emerge, our masters step in to carefully chip away the plaster mold. Like excavating fragile archaeological relics, one false move and you're left with broken shards.

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First comes die-cutting - smoothing the crystal down to the last microinch. Rough polish, removal of excess support, refinement and fine surface polish with a high-speed fabric wheel.

Step No. 11: Retouching of details; burnishing and polishing

Our artist refines and re-polishes each and every detail yet again.

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An etched number on the base of each piece indicates its limited edition and reminds us to never stop creating. After the engraving - an official LIULI artwork is born.

Step No.12: Final inspection; etching of serial number; packaging