Friday, March 25, 2011


When I first started seriously studying Japanese art, I was instantly taken by the presence and baring of the Raku wares of Hon’ami Koetsu (1558-1637) and Raku Chojiro (?-1592). Over time I made every attempt to see and study the mainline Raku pieces which included several trips to see Raku Kichizaemon XV and the Raku Museum. What really fascinated me about these early masterpieces was the posture of the bowls and the undulating termination of the lip. As a burgeoning potter, I made various attempts to create a roving lip, reminiscent of roving hills through various means of removing clay, or throwing an irregular lip. The sheer simplicity of appearance is easily shattered as you try this for yourself.

Several years later, I found the answer to my lip conundrum in the oddest of places, a print gallery. At a show of prints (circa 1994), I was captivated by the vibrant, lush green mezzotints of rolling hills and meadows by Honda Kazuhisa (b. 1948). The way in which he layered his rolling hills gave me the idea to alter the lips on my teabowls. It seemed an odd place to find an answer to a pottery question, but by studying a variety of his prints, I could see the soft rolling hills transplanted to the lip of my bowl.

In time, the bowl shape itself has evolved to a simple and broad form, resembling a brandy snifter, prior to altering it. The lip is cut and smoothed with the body of the bowl being pushed slightly oval to present a broader face to the user, creating a good surface to drink from. This allows the bowl to be used from the intended front or the back. In the end, the bowl reminds me of a freshly harvested melon, cut open and enjoyed in the field. The soft curves of the bowl are a visual mobius loop, bringing the viewer’s eye round the bowl until it plunges into the form.

The first illustrated teabowl came out of my 2/24/11 firing and is glazed in my temmoku and partridge feather glaze and was applied to match and accentuate the curves of the lip. The above teabowl was made sometime last fall and is glazed in my haiyu glaze over a kushime decoration.

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