Alison Alten Jia was home for a snow day on Wednesday, March 6. While the precipitation outside was quickly turning into the “rainquester,” she and her three children were inside. Her husband, Bo Jia, was far away, hard at work at their kiln in Jing De Zhen, China. Alison Alten Jia and Bo Jia are the founders of Middle Kingdom, designers, manufacturers and importers of handmade Chinese porcelain. Since being officially founded in 1998, the company’s colorful pots, bowls and vases have become popular among decorators and house ware dealers across the country. With a vertically integrated company that spans two continents, Middle Kingdom fits just fine in Georgetown where it was founded.
Alison Alten Jia and Bo Jia met in China in 1987 and moved to a house on 35th Street in Georgetown at the end of 1993. After having three children and officially starting Middle Kingdom in 1998, the family moved to a larger home on P Street, east of Wisconsin Avenue. The row house was formerly divided into apartments. The Jias have worked hard to turn it into a peaceful home and a beautiful one, too. The house is filled with antiques has been featured on twice on the Georgetown House Tour.
Middle Kingdom’s products are made in Jing De Zhen, as Alison Alten Jia calls it, “a small town with about 500,000 people” in southeastern China that is known worldwide for its porcelain. The city “really is a Mecca for people involved with ceramics,” said Alison Alten Jia. Bo Jia makes a few trips a year to Middle Kingdom’s kiln there. Right now, he is there working to source Middle Kingdom’s blue and white porcelain.
Although Middle Kingdom porcelain is popular among interior decorators, the Jias are not trying to move fashion-forward with their designs. “We’re not out there chasing trends,” said Alten Jia, who hopes that with time, they have been “refining our own ideas.”
In addition to their own designs, Middle Kingdom has also collaborated with artists to create different pieces. Foekje Fluer van Duin, a Dutch artist, designed vases out after plastic containers she found on the street. The company also makes pottery for Cultivated Gardens and are beginning to sell original source pieces from China and printed silk.
Alison Alten Jia is a member of the Georgetown Garden Club and has worked with the Georgetown Garden Tour in the past. She likes to support conservation and greening efforts in the neighborhood.
“We grew up in Georgetown, and so did our business.”
Items are available through Bernhardt & Reed 202-841-1924.
Prices start at $35.