The September-October 1985 issue of Arts of Asia magazine features a 4-page article by Ursula Roberts on the cloisonné atelier of Kuo Ming-Chiao, father of Robert Kuo. For collectors of Kuo cloisonné, this Arts of Asia issue seems to me a must-have for its biographical information and photos of Kuo Ming-chiao and his work.
Ten photos accompany the article, including five showing workshop artisans in the process of lathe-turning copper pieces, applying the cloison wires, filling with enamel, firing, and polishing.
Two large color photos display pieces with flowing lotus and butterfly designs on a uniquely Kuo rose background, and a distinctive Kuo swirl design. Similar pieces are shown below:
|Note the use of twisted wire, a feature sometimes found on Japanese cloisonné pieces such as this small white vase.
The inside back cover features some spectacular modern red/black/gold pieces under the trademark of the Robert Kuo Ltd. Gallery.
The article explains the distinctiveness of Kuo enamels and designs:
Wanting to develop his own colors, he designed a special kiln to fire the enamel pigments, and he studied chemistry so as to acquire the knowledge that would help him introduce an improved enamelling process. Today he uses over 3600 glazes in different shades. “Kuo colours” are unique, the technical process being a closely guarded secret; using transparent as well as opaque colours he can create cloisonné works that are akin to contemporary painting…
One of the advantages of collecting Kuo cloisonné is that affordable small pieces and beads can still be found in online auction sites. The Arts of Asia article confirms this:
“moreover, his factory produces useful objects such as paperweights and letter openers as well as purely decorative pieces.”
|Courtesy of eBay vendor benbeiswanger. Note how the brocade pattern of this boxed set matches the brocade for Kuo boxed bead sets demonstrating the cloisonne process.
|Cloisonne beads from Taiwan
|The Arts of Asia article's photo of the polishing process shows a bowl of similar wide bangles alongside the artisan.