Wing on Wo has been selling the highest quality porcelain since 1890. Learn about our sourcing journey and how we are continuing the legacy today.
From Jingdezhen to Hong Kong to NYC's Chinatown with Love
After my grandmother, my Po 婆, took over the shop in 1964, she decided to scrap selling groceries and perishables, and focus solely on porcelain as her main line of product. With my grandfather's (Gong 公) fluency in Cantonese and his hometown’s openness to foreign trade, Hong Kong was the natural place to source porcelain for the shop. For over 50 years, my grandparents flew to Hong Kong annually in the spring.
Our goal with sourcing has always been to maintain the style and quality legacy of porcelain my gong and po had sourced in Hong Kong since the early 1970s. To do that, Nate Brown, my close friend and W.O.W.'s Director of Product, and I began in 2016 to trace the patterns my grandparents bought over the years back to their original factories in Jingdezhen, China’s porcelain capital. Sometimes, at local markets or in over-piled storage units tucked into residential compounds, we could still find original pieces from these same factories, often held onto in large quantities by workers who were let go when the factories suddenly shuttered in the early 90s.
Each new uncovering of a stash of pieces produced everything from almost-new items to grungy factory seconds. They required a meticulous combing-through, which took full afternoons of counting and washing on walls behind our factory studio. At the same time, we are also producing our own custom wares, working with small factories and workshops to make vases, bowls, and fu dog figures that mix traditional motifs with contemporary colors.
— Mei Lum, 5th-generation owner of Wing on Wo
We’ve taken a different route.
We’re not just trying to stock the same items W.O.W. has always had, we’re trying to preserve cultural heritage through the physical items we carry; antiques, reproductions, or even our own twists on old patterns and shapes, they all represent Jingdezhen.
-Nate Brown, Director of Product
My relationship with Jingdezhen first began in 2011 on a thesis research trip, and grew when I returned for the longer term in 2013 for a Fulbright project. Now, after over a decade of going back and forth, Jingdezhen is an incredibly important part of my life. Beyond being a town with deep historical significance and unparalleled ceramics scene, it’s a tight knit community flourishing with young artists and a boundless want to create —a place wholly unique where I always feel at home.
So we’ve taken a different route. Whether it is developing relationships with new workshops run by artisans who once worked at these factories or rummaging through storage units with octogenarian shopkeepers who still have original items stashed away, we’ve found ways to keep stocking the patterns that define W.O.W. Each object we find is a literal piece of the past, and each new item produced by an ex-factory employee is a remnant of a history less and less present in modern Jingdezhen. With only older generations knowing how to paint these classic patterns, and younger artisans uninterested in “dated,” laborious and complicated techniques, soon many of Jingdezhen’s traditional patterns might solely be a thing of the past.
This reality has made our work even more important. We’re not just trying to stock the same items W.O.W. has always had, we’re trying to preserve cultural heritage through the physical items we carry; antiques, reproductions, or even our own twists on old patterns and shapes, they all represent Jingdezhen.
— Nate Brown, Director of Product