- Cliff Lee’s “Yellow Prickly Melon” is glazed in Imperial Yellow, a hue that took 15 years to perfect. Credit: Douglas Lee
“Here is where I throw pots,” says Cliff Lee, gesturing toward a wheel and worktable covered in fine white dust. “Big mess,” he exclaims, and abruptly walks into the next room, where more works in progress, magazines and books cluster on tables and shelves. Two—no, three—vacuum cleaners sit idle nearby.
Here, in a 200-year-old barn in eastern Pennsylvania, Lee transforms kaolin clay from England’s White Cliffs of Dover into vessels inspired by Chinese Song dynasty porcelain. A back door leads to two gas-fired kilns while, out front, a koi-filled pond separates the barn from the house Lee and his wife Holly share with Caesar, an affectionate three-legged cat, and a bounding Bouvier dog named Hunter. “Looked for studio space for seven years,” Lee says. “When we discovered this—so happy!”
Although Lee’s command of English is impressive, he speaks with the staccato bursts of his native Chinese, enthusiasm often riding roughshod over syntax and grammar. And although he is not quite 60, he has the perspective of a much older man, the residue of a stroke he suffered in 2003. He speaks with pride, gratitude and few regrets about his life, legacy and work.
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