Tag Archives: teabowl

Chawan for Japanese Tea Ceremony

I am making the distinction, because this last trip to Korea and the tea bowl festival really accented the differences between the preferred shape of a tea bowl between cultures.

The one type of bowl here that probably illustrates the point best, but of which I don’t have a good example, are the Ido chawan. We make these forms in Karatsu, but don’t refer to them as Ido Chawan. Rather, we call them Karatsu Ido, or Ido Gata Chawan. The original Ido Chawan are from Korea, and contrary to the idea that the ideal shape is like Kizaemon (below), Ido come in many shapes and sizes. I’ve even seen on Ido bowl with a warikodai (foot carved into sections).

Kizaemon Ido
Kizaemon Ido
Karatsu Ido, Nakazato Shigetoshi
Karatsu Ido, Nakazato Shigetoshi

Anyway, if you look carefully at Ido forms, two things are often noticed: One, the lip is quite sharp on the inside edge, even though the outside of the edge is rounded, and two, the interior of the bowl is not rounded but rather pointed. These characteristics seem unrelated or even impractical for tea, after all, who wants a lip that is less durable, wouldn’t a round lip be more practical? Also, a cone shaped pointed interior is not suitable for whisking tea, is it? There is no room for the whisk to move, after all.

So why did tea masters choose these bowls as paragons of ‘teabowlness’?  The answer is simple. They weren’t used for whisked tea. Most tea practice revolves around usucha, or whisked thin tea, but the tea that holds the highest position in tea ceremony as an indispensible part of Chaji,  the full tea ceremony, is koicha, or thick tea. Thick tea is not whisked, it is kneaded and folded slowly into a thick paste with the whisk, and the coned interior of the bowl allows for this to happen much better than a flat or rounded interior. Then when drinking this thick paste, it is much better to have a sharp interior lip in order have a clean separation from the bowl when drinking. Koicha is usually a shared bowl, and will be shared by two or more people. After drinking, you must wipe the lip and pass it along to the next person. The sharper interior lip makes both drinking and wiping an easier less messy experience. So, these two characteristics end up being optimal for tea, in the proper context of Japanese koicha.

Even more interestingly, these two characteristics were not intentionally designed by the makers with koicha in mind. They are the direct result of the clay, process, and tools used to make the bowls, which were likely made quickly in large numbers.

In Karatsu, we use cows tongue ribs to shape the clay, because it is large particle material and not very plastic. In some cases, such as porcelain stone and sandstone, it is not even clay at all. The cows tongue allows shaping by compressing the clay body, rather than stretching, like a standard rib would do. I always thought that cows tongue ribs came from Korea, but I have never seen one there during my visits. There is, however, a tool that looks a little like a mini tugboat that functions much the same way as a cows tongue. When making bowls quickly with as little wasted movement as possible, the interior of the bowl naturally becomes conical rather than rounded, and pressing the lip between finger and cows tongue naturally produces the characteristic Ido lip shape, while preventing splitting of the lip by compressing the  un-plastic clay body, and also eliminates the need to use a chamois on the lip to compress or clean up.

So, I seem to have gotten off on a bit of a tangent here, but back to the  main goal of simply leaving you with some images of tea bowls:

 

E Karatsu chawan, Mike Martino
E Karatsu chawan, Mike Martino




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Chosen Karatsu Tsutsu Chawan, Mike Martino
Chosen Karatsu Tsutsu Chawan, Mike Martino

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Kawakujira Chawan, Mike Martino
Kawakujira Chawan, Mike Martino

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Kawakujira Chawan, Mike Martino
Kawakujira Chawan, Mike Martino

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Chosen Karatsu Chawan, Mike Martino
Chosen Karatsu Chawan, Mike Martino

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Chosen Karatsu Yohen Chawan, Mike Martino
Chosen Karatsu Yohen Chawan, Mike Martino

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Kuro Karatsu Chawan, Mike Martino
Kuro Karatsu Chawan, Mike Martino

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Chosen Karatsu Katakuchi Chawan, Mike Martino
Chosen Karatsu Katakuchi Chawan, Mike Martino

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Kickwheel Conversion Finished

The kickwheel conversion is finally finished. Here are some pictures of the flywheel getting put together:

Douglas Fir beams glued up and drying.  After drying, knocked the corners off with a chainsaw, then knocked off corners again to get a basically round shape.
Douglas Fir beams glued up and drying. After drying, knocked the corners off with a chainsaw, then knocked off corners again to get a basically round shape.
Corners knocked off, planed the edge to soften and round.
Corners knocked off, planed the edge to soften and round.
Planed and sanded, ready to go on the frame.
Planed and sanded, ready to go on the frame.
Placed on the frame, spun, and centered. Then, clamped on in place, turned over and screwed in (not shown)
Placed on the frame, spun, and centered. Then, clamped on in place, turned over and screwed in (not shown)
Reassembled and ready to go!
Reassembled and ready to go!

And it was just as easy as that.  Many thanks again to Yamaguchi kun for making the flywheel armature!

And here I am taking it out for a spin:

Finishing Up The Rear Chamber

Today  the second chamber was finally finished.  I’m not going to brick it in yet, since I have probably forgotten something important, and I want quick access if necessary, until the fire is actually lit. Unbricking an rebricking a door would be on my list of less than desirable ways to spend a day.

While the farther stack was packed with more vanilla type blended clay bodies, this front stack is mostly bodies composed entirely of native clay and stone. Some of it got white slip, but it all got the same clear glaze, so I don’t have to guess too much about temp in the rear chamber when I fire.

Below are some pics of brush deco, slip, and loading. I am happier with a lot of the brush work this time around, but some things still just give me fits, like trying to draw long fluid shrimp whiskers on a round pot. Gah! Need more practice…

TV Crew Visit Studio

Today I had a very nice visit from a television station who did a very nice job of filming the studio, as well as conducting an interview with me for a show segment coming up in August. They filmed the studio and kiln, me making a coil and paddle jar, me glazing a bisqued piece of  similar form, and also finished pieces which had the same glaze as the demo forms.

All in all, a very thorough job on their part, although I have no idea how they will edit everything down to fit in a 5 minute segment.

I had taken photos of the crew to put up on the blog, but apparently the station prefers not to have behind the scenes images of its projects made public, so I am leaving them out for now.

I will, however, include a few images similar to what may show up on the air in a few weeks. Also, once the show airs and the segment is viewable on the internet, I will post a link to it for all this blog’s viewers.

Views of a repaired teabowl

This is the teabowl that fell into the firebox during the last firing and broke into about 12 pieces. After falling and breaking, the firing continued, and the larger shards warped a bit, making it hard to get the pieces to fit just right.

Everything went back together, but some of the spaces were 1mm wide or more, and a lot of filling was required. Not only that, but the edges of the larger pieces didn’t meet evenly, making a lot of uneven fill lines. I thought about grinding down the higher edges, but in the end decided against that, because the fill lines were already so wide in some places.

So, here is the finished piece, with the lacquer and gold brushed on over the fill lines. A pro could have made thinner, more even lines probably, but it was good practice for me. A few more days to dry completely, then it will be time to whip up some tea…

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Aging pots

Lately I’ve been experimenting with ways to age pots more quickly, making the crackle stand out. This time I tried an old woodworking trick, and it seems to work nicely.

I soaked the pots in a strong tea bath then dried completely.  After that, I applied iron acetate with a brush and let them sit a couple of days. The iron acetate reacts with tannins and turns a dark color within about 3 days. I made the iron acetate by soaking steel wool in vinegar. I may change to a weak sulfuric acid solution, since the smell of the vinegar is proving difficult to get out of the pots!

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