Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Making Chawan In The 21st Century

Jean asked me to save this note I wrote to a facebook friend.  They asked about the rationale of making tea bowls in modern times. 
Korean Ido Tea Bowl Name Kizaemon.
I see no reason to disregard superior techniques or methods simply because they come from another place, culture or time. 

Or, if it is a more general discussion about our post-modern preoccupation with the present, I believe that we are fortunate with Clay. Unlike painting, which is circumscribe within the arena of studio arts, there are many entries into our medium. I come to clay from three general areas that do not have the "studio arts" baggage or need to measure itself against the atelier: anthropology, Zen Buddhism and ecology (informed by author/poets like Gary Snyder and Wendell Berry, and also Henry David Thoreau.) From the anthropological perspective, whether a work is done in th 15th century or the 21st really has no meaning. You judge the quality of the work and its merits solely by the work itself.
Green tea is a part of my culture. We do leaf tea all day (I start the day with a bowl of coffee. My current coffee bowl is a very 21st century MacKenzie shino bowl.) In the afternoon, around 3:00pm, we have powdered whisked tea. 

One of the big advantages ceramics has in Japan is the tea culture which informs not only art, but crafts, dance, theater and also, the martial arts. It is the single thing that makes ceramic culture there light years ahead of ours. (I say ceramic culture specifically, not ceramics.) In Japan, ceramicist do not have to think of themselves as the poor stepchild of the studio arts. With all the health benefits of green tea being discovered, there is no reason why tea culture cannot help ceramics here. But certainly, not everybody, not even the majority, of pottery makers have to be concerned with tea aesthetics. But IF you make tea bowls, it helps you make things that are not a "facade". Most American tea bowls (unlike Rob's that are made with tea in mind) have nothing to do with tea. They are just small bowls. That is where the "facade" dwells.

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