Best known as the author of Fifth Chinese Daughter, a book that chronicles her life growing up in San Francisco’s Chinatown community, Jade Snow Wong was a highly accomplished artist who created a large and exquisitely beautiful body of work in enamel on copper. Her spare but brilliantly colored forms were inspired by the simple shapes and rich color palette of Chinese ceramics of the Song dynasty.
Born in 1922, Jade Snow Wong studied at Mills College in Oakland, California, graduating in 1942. While at Mills, she majored in Economics and Social Studies with the intention of becoming a social worker and serving the Chinese-American community. However, in her final semester, she enrolled in a crafts course in which she developed a keen interest in ceramics and enameling. Immediately after her graduation, she continued her studies at Mills in a six-week course taught by Carlton Ball, one of the leading ceramists working in northern California in the period immediately following World War II. This course solidified her commitment to ceramics and to a career in enameling.
Her work in enamel was quickly recognized by collectors and curators, alike. In the late 1940s, it was featured in a number of important juried exhibitions including the nationally prominent ceramics exhibition at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York. This led to the purchase of an enamel bowl by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1947. In the same year, Mies van der Rohe selected two of her enamels to be shown in the Museum of Modern Art’s watershed exhibition 100 Objects of Fine Design
. Between 1947 and 1952 her work was featured in no fewer than twelve exhibitions and in 1952, the Art Institute of Chicago organized her first one-person exhibition which traveled to several other museums after it initial presentation in Chicago.
Throughout her long and enormously productive life, Jade Snow Wong constantly refined her elegant vessel forms decorating them with subtle enamel colors. In 2002 a major retrospective exhibition was organized by the Chinese Historical Society in San Francisco. Jade Snow Wong passed away in 2006 leaving a rich legacy of beauty and integrity.