Engraving means carving words or pictures on wood or stone with a knife, as is the case with the engraved Zisha pottery, that is, carving words and pictures on the walls of Zisha pottery. Engraving is a very common decoration technique and the main form of the decoration of Zisha teapots, by leaving poems and songs, flowers, birds, insects and fish, and landscape and figures on teapots, the art of literature, calligraphy, painting and seal cutting has been added to the teapots.
“字依壶传,壶随字贵 The words are according to the engraved teapot to be handed down, and the teapot is expensive according to the engraved words”, why should Zisha teapots be engraved with “characters”? Zisha teapot has gradually become a work of art from a practical tool, which must be attached to ideological, cultural, artistic and unique characters of “characters”.
It takes a period of time for the Zisha body to turn white and hard due to water volatilization on the surface, after it is finished the fine polish with Ming needles. In this period, engraving on the surface is called “wet engraving”, that is, “engraving on the surface of the wet Zisha body”. Wet engraving can be roughly divided into two types:
The “bamboo knife engraving” mentioned in ancient books is described engraving with sharpened tools such as bamboo and wood. According to the Zisha book <Yangxian Teapot Series · Biepai 阳羡茗壶系·别派>, the Zisha master, Shi Dabin first asked someone who could write calligraphy to draw with a bamboo knife, or to mark it, and then engraved it into characters. The calligraphy was elegant, which could not be imitated by others, connoisseurs thought it was different, this method was called “bamboo knife engraving”.
The main feature of this method is that there is clay on the cutting edges, from the scratch point of view, there are marks on starting and closing parts, as well as the scratch marks of the round head of knife tip. When using a bamboo knife to carve characters on a curved surface of wet clay, the resistance is relatively big, because the wet clay dries fast in the air, the hardness and softness of the surface are changing all the time, the characters‘ engraving cannot be stopped in the middle.
The sharp vertical V-shaped characters are carved by a metal knife, which is referred to as the second wet engraving method “two cuts to see the bottom”, before the reign of Guangxu in Qing Dynasty, most of the pottery carvings were wet engravings.
After the Zisha body is hard and white, and then to engrave on it, it is called “dry engraving”. It was used in the Qing Guangxu period, a full-time work – Zisha “Mr. Engraver 刻字先生” started from Shao Yunru, whoes handed down works are mainly dry engraved. After Guangxu years, wet engraving slowly fade out from the history of Zisha engraving.
Nowadays, there are two main methods of engraving on pottery, one is the straight double cuts method and the other is side single cut method. The method of straight double cuts is to paint on the surface with a brush first, and then to cut from both sides of the line to engrave, which requires preciseness and neatness to create the gold and stone effect of seal cutting. One stroke at a time, two cuts are used, and the remaining clay in the middle is scraped with the blade.
Side single cut method, without draft, can directly use knife to engrave on the Zisha surface, and freely play the author’s technology and imagination. The author should grasp the strength and the thickness, which is more difficult, but also more free and far-reaching.
Engraved Zisha calligraphy is characterized by clear, mellow, fluent, distinct characters, the engraved painting should be able to reflect the verve and spirit of the original painting.
The supplementary engraving on the fired pottery is called the “out of kiln engraving”, there are three kinds of common “computer”, “laser” and “electric drill”, using a graphic editing software in computer, after the required design, the information is transmitted to the engraving machine, converted into a pulse signal to control the engraving path and rotate the engraving tool at high speed, which is called “computer engraving”.
The signal is transmitted to the laser generator, burning traces are formed into figures by the laser energy, which is called “laser engraving”. According to the instant pasted line on the Zisha surface, a small drill bit or a small grinding wheel of electric tools is used by hands to engrave, which is called “electric drill engraving”.
All marks, burning marks and grinding marks from these three engravings make the same concave surface, lack of the charm gold and stone effect, very rigid and lifeless. The biggest drawback of these engravings is that it destroys the crystal formed on the Zisha surface during firing, which is not conducive to nourish Zisha teapots later.