Friday, July 1, 2011


I recently encountered a teabowl that took me way back to the very beginning of our chawan history, as they say; you never forget your first. Back in the early 1980’s my wife’s work kept her going back and forth from upstate New York to Cleveland and on many of the trips, I would accompany her. We were fortunate to meet Mitzie Verne (grandmother of actor James Franco!) on one of our trips and while my wife worked, I was invited over to the Mitzie Verne Collection of Cleveland at the time still located at her home. Her house was a treasure trove of object from her numerous travels as well as Japanese prints, paintings and pottery for sale. Despite the sensory overload, the best part of the visits was always Mitzie’s charm and infectious sense of humor. One this one fatefull visit, Mitzie showed me a wonderful large boxed kakejiku scroll and a great chawan. Despite the fact that we could barely keep our heads above water as it was, we bought both. The scroll was by Tessai, a famous painter with unimpeachable provenance and the chawan was by Takahashi Wasaburo. What I had succeeded in doing was to buy our very first, honest to goodness Japanese chawan. It may seem like no big deal now, but back then, there was no internet and no easy access to modern Japanese ceramics, short of treks to NY City or Japan. The hunt was always filled with phone descriptions and even poorer Polaroids!

Illustrated is the very first chawan we ever collected and we actually still own it. It never ceases to engage me and the dialogue a bit more mature than when I first obtained it. The chawan is by Takahashi Wasaburo (b. 1948) who studied with Ueda Naokata IV and Ningen Kokuho, Shimizu Uichi. This chawan was wood fired and is a really deep and intense seiji glaze with splashes of rich iron splashed around the surface. This chawan shows the influence of Shimizu and the shape feels wonderful in the hand and my eye always sees something new even after 25+ years. I am glad it has decided to stick around.

1 comment:

  1. that iron is almost coral in color and so unusual to me, and the background color is almost like silk in the photo, congrats on finding that wonderful chawan.