Sparking Joy: When Chinese Neolithic Pottery Meets the Modern Designer

Sparking Joy: When Chinese Neolithic Pottery Meets the Modern Designer

The joys and pleasure of Neolithic ceramics in the words of a modern designer.
The joys and pleasure of Neolithic ceramics in the words of a modern designer.
“This is exactly what art should do. It should move us.”
- Ronald W. Longsdorf

When you pick up an object, ask yourself: Does it spark joy? This is the sixth and most profound guiding principle to the KonMari Method™, Marie Kondo’s philosophy to organising. Since publishing her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing in 2014, the Japanese consultant has authored three more books, secured her own Netflix show, and built a business out of her method. By asking ourselves if the object brings joy we effectively permit feelings to be the standard for choosing the objects and items we want to live with. Consequently, every item we own will be one that gives us pleasure.

Sound familiar? It might. Common advice towards collecting art is to buy what one likes, to choose what makes you happy, and to decide if it’s a work of art you can see yourself living with. As the live sale, Ancient Civilisations II – Neolithic Pottery including the Collection of Ronald W. Longsdorf, draws near, we explore the appreciation of Neolithic pottery through the words of Ronald W. Longsdorf, product designer and renowned collector who held each of these objects in his own hands, exploring every inch of them with pleasure and an eye adept to modern design.


The Joy of Neolithic Pottery

“I have always been fascinated by the way the forms were conceived, engineered, decorated, and produced, and I am profoundly stirred by their aesthetic strengths. I have tried to articulate what it is that moves me about them.”
- Ronald W. Longsdorf

Published in The Pottery Age: An Appreciation of Neolithic Ceramics from China (2019) in which Longsdorf extensively documents 100 examples of Neolithic pottery from his private collection, his words bring an empathetic and modern approach to appreciating the beauty of centuries-old ceramics. Below we spotlight 10 pieces through his design notes. Bringing his skillset and familiarity with the processes of ceramics and his background in designing products for Western consumers, Longsdorf describes Neolithic pottery with the flair of a creative talent, and the touch of a man who clearly felt the joy of holding these pottery pieces in his own hands and living with them at home. “To fully appreciate a pot, one must handle it, feel the weight, the balance, the texture, the surface. Authentic pieces may even have a very particular pungent smell.”

Neolithic pottery, Longsdorf emphasises, was the fine art of its time. In his discussion of Neolithic pottery, Longsdorf outlines several key concepts of pottery design: “form follows function” and ergonomic designs were both drivers of Neolithic pottery innovation; inspiration on both a function and aesthetic level came from the natural world; and these objects encapsulated the creativity of the potter themselves within their design. It is also through consideration of these concepts that we can draw parallels between the appreciation of Neolithic pottery with a modern eye and contemporary design aesthetics where we strive to live with the beautiful and the minimal. Living minimally no longer means stripping our homes down to the bare necessities though, as Kondo’s method would suggest, it can simply mean living with objects that bring us joy. At the convergence of modern and minimalist design styles, where form and function are emphasised alongside pleasurable aesthetics and ambience, is the preference for simplicity, clean lines, geometric shapes, natural light, materials such as wood and glass, and neutral colour palettes. All this, we can find in the designs of Neolithic pottery, which all things considered were certainly ahead of its time.


Chinese Works of Art

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