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MIDDLE KINGDOM

MIDDLE KINGDOM

MK Porcelain

By Bo Jia & Alison Alten

Middle Kingdom is a high-end brand inspired by a long and distinguished history of design and craftsmanship in Chinese porcelain with a fresh and modern design vision. They keep the ancient (high quality) craft production techniques and mix it with modern and fresh designs.

Middle Kingdom is finely crafted by highly trained artisans; for the highest quality they select the finest clay and work with unique glazes, delicate hand painted color blends and design lyrical works that speak to history and modernity.

 Credit : Middle Kingdom 

Credit : MIDDLE KINGDOM

We have talked to the founders about the story of the brand and their techniques.

Meet Bo & Alison

Middle Kingdom was founded in 2004 by the married couple Bo Jia and Alison Alten.

They met when Alison was an exchange student to China, and Bo was already working as a designer at the Museum of Revolution and History (now the National Museum of China) on Tian An Men Square.  

Bo studied graphic design as well as traditional Eastern and Western painting at the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Art (now the China Academy of Fine Art) in Hangzhou, an ancient imperial city in southern China.  

Alison studied Asian history, art history and languages at The College of William and Mary and at Harvard University.  

Soon after Bo’s arrival in the United States, they worked to create Middle Kingdom as a design brand.  Their first inspiration was to update Chinese design for a modern audience, but their mission has now grown to include designs with other, Western, influences.

Alison, Bo, where are you from?

Bo is Han Chinese and a naturalized American citizen, and Alison is an American citizen of French, Irish, German and Hungarian heritage (that she knows of!).  

 Credit : Middle Kingdom 

Credit : MIDDLE KINGDOM

Why did you start a porcelain brand?

Porcelain is a medium that is immediately recognizable as coming from China, so we felt it would be a perfect material to express our original desire to create a brand with roots in China.  Now that we have worked in clay for so long, we realize that you can always learn something new about this material! The elemental quality of porcelain is also very spiritual - we are making beautiful objects with the very earth that we spring from.

Where is the company based?

We are based in the beautiful US capital, Washington, DC.  This city has a very European feel, with classical buildings and broad boulevards, and is very conducive to a design lifestyle (despite the politics!).  

And the production?

Our kiln in based in the ancient city of Jingdezhen, China, where the imperial kilns were located and where craftsmen have been working in porcelain clay for over 1000 years.

What makes your products unique?

Our designs are unique in that we combine classical and modern influences in our work, and we don’t design for trends. We prefer to create and lead rather than follow. We prefer tight control over design, production and distribution and do not deputize anyone else to do any of our work.

 Credit : Design Hunger

Credit : MIDDLE KINGDOM

What is the production technique? How do you get those amazing pastel colors tones?

We use the traditional “assembly line” technique that has been the practice in Jingdezhen since imperial times.  Our potters each specialize in one stage of production and become expert in that skill.  We use wheel and molding techniques, and trimming is very important in the process.  Our pastel tones are achieved by mixing pigment in the clay.  The effect is very contemporary and now very popular, especially in Europe, but in reality this technique is quite old.

You collaborate with talented designers. How do you choose the ones you work with?

Some designers seek us out due to our reputation for design and quality, and then we decide whether or not we want to work with them.  In some special cases, we see a young talent and reach out to them.  We prefer that the collaborative process be interesting and inspirational to both parties, rather than a straight designer/producer relationship.  We like that we can be in a position to inspire young designers and give them a chance.  

What is your daily routine?

Bo - sleep in a little bit; read the news and have a coffee; work on our old house; work on design issues; stay up late and communicate with the kiln in China (12 hour time difference) OR when in China, work, work work.

Alison - up early; get kids off to school; walk the dog; office and client work; read and study OR when Bo is in China, binge-watch historical dramas. 

Our routine also includes working at our warehouse office, especially right after a trade show, or after a container arrives.

On the weekends we love to go to museums or on hikes with our dog around Washington, DC, which has lovely natural parks.

What is your favorite city in the world? Why?

We love aspects of many cities, but the last place we went that we loved was Paris, because it exhibits layers and layers of history.  Our children expect that when we go on a vacation it will mean that we spend a lot of time walking and looking at architecture!

 Credit : Middle Kingdom

Credit : MIDDLE KINGDOM

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Chinese history; European landscape design; Scandinavian design; fashion; minimalist, classical music; poetry and poetic imagery

Any decoration advice to give to Design Hunger community? :)

If you love it it will work, don’t be afraid of color, respect the empty spaces and symmetry, trust your instincts (they’re yours after all!)

Thank you

  MIDDLE KINGDOM MINI VASE  /  wooden Lazy Plant by @frenchtoaststudio    Credit : Design Hunger

MIDDLE KINGDOM MINI VASE / wooden Lazy Plant by @frenchtoaststudio

Credit : Design Hunger

Credit : MIDDLE KINGDOM

Middle Kingdom is finely crafted by highly trained artisans. For the highest quality they select the finest clay and work with unique glazes, color blends and design lyrical works that speak to history and modernity.

The work is so refined that it is collected by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Baltimore Museum of Art in Baltimore, Maryland.

Check more on their website http://www.mkporcelain.com/


 Credit : Middle Kingdom

Credit : MIDDLE KINGDOM

The MINI VASES are designed by Bo Jia. There are 11 shapes and 16 colors in a mix of matter, semi-matte and glossy colors that you can mix all together. The vases are made of clay porcelain with matte finishing and glazed interior, or glazed inside and out. They come individually packed in a beautiful craft box.

 Credit : Middle Kingdom

Credit : MIDDLE KINGDOM

The BOTTLE VASES are designed by Foekje Fleur van Duin. There are 9 shapes and 11 pastel colors that you can mix all together. The COLD MOUNTAIN VASES are designed by Bo & Olivia Jia (our eldest daughter) and come in 5 shapes and 5 colors.

 Credit : Middle Kingdom

Credit : MIDDLE KINGDOM

Each piece is hand signed


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