Something about Hui Xiang Yun's pots jumped out at us, even before we'd seen them in person. Late last year, we were doing some research on contemporary Yixing potters in preparation for a trip to Yixing, looking at thousands of pots from hundreds of Yixing potters of various ranks and skills. His pots seemed to come alive, showing a good knowledge and appreciation of the classics, while making each shape his own and bringing his own artistic character.
It took us several days in Yixing to track him down. We visited his studio in the countryside outside Yixing several times, only to find it closed with no-one around. It was in the middle of a national holiday and he'd closed the studio for a week. Eventually though friends of friends we managed to get his phone number and arranged a meeting.
We were unsure what to expect, since he's quite a famous potter, but found someone very kind, down to earth and eager to share his knowledge and thoughts behind the pots that he made. His pots in person were something different than the photos we'd seen could convey. At a most basic level, the shapes and refinement were perfect, the clay was some of the best we've come across in contemporary work and the finishing was lovely. Beyond that, there were all sorts of hidden aspects that revealed them slowly as you held and used his pots... tiny stamps, small inscriptions, hidden animals in some of his more artistic works, the way he changed the curve of the spouts in subtle ways to alter the flow of the tea. This workmanship was definitely something special for us and on a very different level than pots from other contemporary 'masters' we've come across.
As a potter, he's somewhat renowned in Yixing circles, with a devoted following amongst collectors. He was born in 1968 as a 15th generation descendent from legendary Ming dynasty potter Hui Meng Chen and grew up making pots from an early age studying with his father, then under several grandmasters including one of the most famous contemporary potters, He Dao Hong.
He was hired by several zisha factories as a tutor and in 1987 began collecting antique pots from some of the most famous potters throughout history, studying and imitating them to refine his skill and understanding of their works. Since the 1990's he was concerned with over-mining of zisha clay and began collecting original ore in earnest, amassing a large store of original ores and earning quite a reputation for his collection. Unusually for a potter of such renown, he is unranked, deciding to eschew the treadmill and commercial aspects of the standard ranking system, and focussing on his art, his clay and his workmanship to showcase his skill.
After meeting him, we bought one of his pots to bring home and use, and quickly it became one of the favourite pots in our collection and a regular feature on our tea table. Recently we have kept in touch with him and he very kindly sent us 10 pots, asking us to use them. If we liked them and felt they would be good pots for our customers, we could offer them online and help to share his pots with tea lovers in the west.