A visitor takes in ceramic products at an exhibition hall in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, in August. (Photo: China Daily)
Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, is innovating digital technologies, business practices and government policy to develop the region into a bigger porcelain powerhouse.
The ceramics industry is one of the local economic pillars. Known as "China's ceramic capital", Jingdezhen is promoting not only automation of porcelain production but use of online tools and technologies like livestreaming to drive sales.
In addition, the local government has been rolling out supportive measures for a variety of startups in the field, encouraging more and more entrepreneurs and young artists to consider a career in porcelain-related businesses.
For instance, automation at Jingdezhen Yishan Ceramics Co Ltd has enhanced efficiency and boosted profits, said Yin Zhongwei, its deputy manager.
The State-owned firm has imported over 10 pieces of equipment for its smart manufacturing factory that was founded in 2017 with an investment of 750 million yuan ($111 million).
The factory is now capable of reaching an annual output of 10 million ceramic pieces. "The porcelain industry generates small per-unit profit. We expect automation to create more added-value, enhance efficiency and increase profits. Going forward, we may increase the number of kilns and boost annual output to 20 million units," Yin said.
For its part, the Jingdezhen municipal government has cooperated with Douyin, a short-video platform, the Zhushan district government in Jingdezhen and Jingdezhen Ceramic Culture Tourism Group, a State-owned firm, to set up a livestreaming-driven e-commerce portal for the city, named as "Live".
The online venture operates out of Ceramic Art Revenue, a porcelain business incubation park in Jingdezhen developed by JCCTG.
Ceramic firms, salespeople, and startup teams can register on the website/app to be considered for free physical space and access to livestreaming equipment to exhibit and sell their products online.
The portal allows registered users to sell their wares to consumers on about 50 e-platforms, including Taobao, Kuaishou and Douyin.
Ceramic Art Revenue also launched Yi Space, a section in the park to support startups and young artists by way of free offline product exhibition space and sales booths.
About 10 percent of individuals or teams at Yi Space whose sales performance does not improve compared to their peers', will no longer enjoy the benefits. Performance appraisals are done on a monthly basis.
To date, Yi Space has acted as an incubator of business activities of about 15,700 young porcelain artists, salespeople and startup teams. Their collective monthly offline sales are worth nearly 10 million yuan.
Feng Xuefang, 34, is one of the artists at Yi Space who set up Home of an Orange, her art studio, after graduating in 2014. Feng founded Xiaoyuanzi Porcelain Culture Development Co Ltd in 2018.
"I heard about Yi Space in 2015 and applied to register. Yi Space started operations in 2016 and I am among the first batch of startup founders who have benefited from Yi Space," Feng said.
Her initial investment into the studio was 9,000 yuan. Feng's firm boasted 2019 revenue of 300,000 yuan.
Ryan LaBar, a porcelain artist who was born and raised in the United States, attests to Jingdezhen's effectiveness as a business-friendly destination full of opportunity and creative potential. LaBar has spent the last five years living and working in the city.
He said: "I kept having serendipitous moments here… Every ceramic artist who comes to China from other countries needs to visit Jingdezhen because the place is the ultimate destination for ceramics and porcelain.
"The local community's support allows our creative ideas to manifest. Not just me, every artist who comes to Jingdezhen will probably say this."