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A hint of Hellerau in China

Sometimes, it takes exceptional circumstances or an exceptional setting, for something exceptional to happen. In May 1992, it was the aura of Dresden-Hellerau that prompted company owner Fritz Straub and his three partners to acquire Deutsche Werkstätten from the Treuhand.

Twenty-five years later, Fritz Straub had similar ideas about Deutsche Werkstätten’s plan to venture into the Chinese market. He was looking for a place with cultural value and a tradition for craftsmanship. Tobias Bootz, responsible for DW China, remembers: "Fritz Straub wanted to find somewhere that had a similar standing to Hellerau. A place with an aura. Our job was to find this place. Thanks to a series of coincidences and a bit of good luck, we came across Jingdezhen, the Chinese equivalent to Meissen." A clear understatement when you consider that Jingdezhen is in fact where porcelain was first invented in 900. In 1004 it was declared the official ‘Imperial Porcelain Manufacturer’ by the emperor of the time.

To put this into perspective, Meissen only emerged some 700 years later, in 1710. None the less, Tobias Bootz is convinced that the cultural and historical connection exists between China and Saxony. “This is a place where you really feel the difference and where you could imagine making something happen.” In its heyday more than 60,000 people were working in the porcelain business in Jingdezhen. The factory complex was abandoned at the end of the 1980s but has since been rediscovered by the Chinese government. Large parts of the historic factory buildings are still intact - albeit in a deplorable state and are now being renovated. Part of the design and development of the extensive site is being carried out by the architectural firm David Chipperfield Architects. Artists and craft workshops are expected to move in in the future and Deutsche Werkstätten hopes to be one of them.

Factory complex in Jingdezhen, the Chinese equivalent to Meissen © Image: PR DW