Born in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Win Ng established his reputation as a master ceramist, with an initial focus on abstract, non-utilitarian works in the tradition of Peter Voulkos. Raised in Chinatown, he attended Saint Mary’s Academy for six years where he studied Chinese language. Later, he attended City College of San Francisco, and San Francisco State. After discharge from the army, he resumed his studies in ceramics at the California School of Fine Arts (later known as the San Francisco Art Institute), and received his BFA in 1959. In1960, he attended Mills College, but never completed his MFA.
In 1958 he had his first one man show at the Michow Gallery in New York, then, in 1961, was represented by Braunstein Gallery in San Francisco (now the Braunstein/Quay Gallery) who continues to represent his work posthumously. Many traditional critics feel that Ng’s important work dates from 1958 to 1965, the years before he shifted his creative output from gallery art to more functional work.
This “functional” work was a collaborative entrepreneurial endeavor with artist Spaulding Taylor. As co-founder of Environmental Ceramics (later to be named Taylor & Ng), Win Ng established himself as a consummate decorative designer and innovative entrepreneur. Taylor & Ng shifted the paradigm in retail merchandising by raising the awareness and perception of the mass market toward finely wrought hand-crafted artware, and in the process became the model for many culinary and speciality stores to follow. The Chinese Wok was just one of many objects Taylor & Ng help to popularize.
Following a twenty-year journey (from 1965 to 1985) Taylor & Ng grew from a small ceramics shop on Howard Street, to a mega, multi-level emporium at Embarcadero Center. There were also stores at the Stanford Shopping Center and other Bay Area locations as well a Taylor & Ng shop inside Macy’s in New York.
But Ng continued with his fine art even during this two-decade decorative period. He produced a veritable torrent of work—thrown ceramic bowls, pots, bottles, vases, dishes, slab constructions, sculptures in earthenware and metal, paintings, drawings, book illustrations, as well as hundreds of decorative designs for Taylor & Ng—in scales ranging from minute to monumental. And while this public departure from the purely fine art realm may have cost him an ongoing reputation in the gallery/museum world, it was his renewed focus on fine art in the final years of his life, as well as his innovations in decorative and ceramic arts that underscore his important contribution as a post-modern artist. In the last decade of his life (1981-1991) Win Ng would leave the retail world and re-visit in earnest his deep passion, “bringing together in one integrated work” his artful life.
– Allen R. Hicks