I’m interested in the relationship between historical and contemporary craft traditions, as well as the on-going dialogue between different crafts such as ceramics, metalware, glass and painting. In my early work, Planeware, I developed porcelain slab construction techniques inspired by tinware and Song Dynasty qingbai ware (which, in turn, was influenced by Tang Dynasty silver and gold ware). Painted explores the long history of slip decoration in ceramics as well as the relationship between painting and ceramics. As with hakeme, in the Painted series brushes are used to apply slip. But Painted removes the “ground” of the underlying thrown form, leaving behind only the slip. In my newest series, Simulant, I explore the relationship between authentic and fake by recreating traditional Chinese ceramic materials based on chemical analyses of ancient artifacts. By blending these “fake” materials, I am able to simulate the effect of ancient Chinese porcelain bodies, glazes, and underglazes.
During his first year in college Derek Au fell in love with ceramics, dropped out, and moved to California to “become a potter”. It didn’t work out. So Derek went back to school and studied in a variety of fields without bothering to actually graduate. For three of those years Derek studied computer science, which led to gigs at various start-ups during the heady days of the first internet boom. In 2000, burned out and in search of more meaningful work, Derek landed a job with Greenpeace in Amsterdam. Two years later he transferred to the sailing vessel Rainbow Warrior as a radio operator and media specialist. His time on-shore was spent at various pottery studios. Derek eventually disembarked in Hong Kong and volunteered for Greenpeace China. He fell in love with the people and culture and decided to study Mandarin in Beijing while living in an old hutong neighborhood. In 2007 a friend convinced Derek to “do something that terrifies you”, and he moved to the “Porcelain Capital of the World”, Jingdezhen. He found work there as a studio manager at the Pottery Workshop under the direction of Takeshi Yasuda. Derek later established his own ceramics studio and created two series of well-received porcelain work, “Planeware” and “Painted”. In 2014 Derek began coding Glazy, a popular ceramics recipes database. An avid photographer, in 2017 he created the 72 Hands project which documents traditional ceramics techniques. After 11 years in Jingdezhen, in 2018 Derek was invited to the Northern Clay Center as a McKnight Resident Artist. He then spent a year at the Alfred University Ceramics Department as a Special Student. From 2019 to 2021 Derek spent two years as a Long-term Resident Artist at the Red Lodge Clay Center where he participated in exhibitions and continued work on Glazy.
15 years experience as a professional studio ceramicist, 2 years experience managing a resident studio, and 2 years working for a large-scale ceramics production workshop and residency. Experienced with all aspects of ceramics production: ceramic chemistry, clay & glaze formulation and preparation, traditional & modern fabrication processes, and maintenance and firing of a wide variety of kiln types and sizes.
Experience living and working in a number of different countries and cultures. Fluent English, Intermediate-Advanced spoken Mandarin Chinese, Intermediate written Mandarin Chinese.
C.V. available upon request.