This ceramic elephant figurine was purchased as part of an incense set. This piece is mass produced in Taiwan. The ceramic elephant underwent a number of forming operations within a large factory. Initially one ceramic elephant is made by hand then a mold is made of that. Then to produce many more, a forming technique known as slipcasting is carried out where liquid clay is poured into a plaster mold. Then the object starts its journey down the conveyer belt where robots can complete the finishing process in minutes such as polishing, decorating, glazing and firing. This process allows a large number of clones to be distributed around the world at a low cost. The Dehua Huayu Industry Company has a minimum order quantity of 2000 pieces per order and can produce 20,000 a month.
These ceramic items, part of the study collection, have undertaken a similar steps in their creation. They have been modelled, fired, glazed and re-fired. The difference in the process is all these figurines have been hand crafted. Each one is unique and irreplaceable. Animal figurines in ancient times were used to depict qualities that people possessed or desired to posses e.g. lion for bravery, hawk or fox for strategic ability. These figurines had meaning for the owner at that time.