Magic, Craft and Process by Alison Alten Jia of Middle Kingdom

Middle Kingdom logo

Working in porcelain clay is a bit like performing magic. You start with an idea and hope that what comes out of the kiln is what you imagined, but when it does not, you try again or you move in a different direction. Each time a visitor at the New York International Gift Fair asks us about our newest designs, or where we see trends moving, we have to give this honest reply. The liberating thing about clay is just this uncertainty.

Color Clay series“Color Clay” series




Traditional Chinese design was our first inspiration, and continues to heavily inform our work. The thousands of years of history and the incredibly deep reserves of vernacular design mean that we will never run out of inspiration from this source. We feel we are ambassadors for our own company and designs as well as ambassadors for Chinese design and workmanship. That artisans in the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) were creating “modern” designs that would look at home in any contemporary home or store just shows that there really is nothing new under the sun. We can and should strive to make the same inspiration for beauty relevant in our time. When we’re not swooning over Chinese design we love botanical art, the Italian Renaissance, traditional architecture, Morris Louis paintings and the tonal minimalism of the composer Arvo Part. A wide net, to be sure, but a design net cast widely will likely yield the best inspirational “catch”.

Chinese antiquesOur personal collection of Chinese antiques and mementos.





In recent years we have broadened our sources of inspiration to include collaboration with guest designers as well as bespoke work for particular clients. This kind of work is like the disparate inspiration we seek for ourselves. Often a client will send us down a path unintended, but ultimately satisfying.

We have noticed a new appreciation for craft and process from visitors to our stand in New York. This interest aligns with broader trends for handmade, local, artisanal – all efforts to make sense of the world and our place in it. We are sure that the customers of our customers are asking these same questions, and it is wonderful to have a story that is not forced, that is integral to our work, and that can be conveyed honestly and directly.

Alison Alten Jia and Bo Jia photoAlison Alten Jia and Bo Jia Co-founders of Middle Kingdom

About: Alison Alten Jia studied Chinese history at The College of William and Mary and Harvard University. Bo Jia graduated from the China Academy of Fine Art in Hangzhou and was honored with an appointment as a painter and exhibition designer at the National Museum on Tian An Men Square.  After Bo arrived in the United States he and Alison founded Middle Kingdom as a collaboration for traditional materials in need of new masters of expression.

Middle Kingdom wares are sold around the world. Bo and Alison have revived and broadened a ceramic tradition for a modern audience.

Middle Kingdom exhibits at NYIGF in the At Home Furnishings division showing at Pier 94.

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