Monday, March 26, 2012


I have always been fascinated by form, going back to my youth watching countless hours of cartoons to the appreciation of form and function in the real world. It really doesn't matter the material; clay, metal, glass, stone, form is king. Knowing this, a friend sent me a catalogue, years ago called; FROM SILVER TO CERAMICS from the Ashmolean Museum. The basic premise is the investigation of the relationship (and origins) between ceramic and metal forms, around the globe. The idea sprung from an exhibit in which ancient Greek pottery and metalwork where examined and the questions of which came first were analyized. Some thought that the ceramic forms sprung from metal and vice versa, the penultimate example of the chicken and the egg. The catalogue takes up forms from Greece, Rome, China, Japan and Islam and is a fascinating look at form in two materials.

Illustrated is a gin-chawan, a silver chawan, beaten from a thick sheet of silver  with an applied foot ring (kodai). The slightly waisted form is accentuated by a myriad of hand hammered marks, giving the bowl a tremendous sensory appeal to the eye as well as the hand. Made in the 20th century in the style of a classical raku chawan, silver and gold, lacquer, wood and glass chawan can be seen all the way back to the early Edo Period (1600-1868). In fact, there is a 12 piece tea set created at the instruction of Tokugawa Ieyasu (the first Tokugawa Shogun) made out of pure gold and used for entertaining very high ranking individuals. What ever the case may have been in ancient Greece, it is safe to say, this silver chawan is a copy of its ceramic antecedant, so we can say with some certainty, it is the egg that comes first. I guess I have solved one of the great mysteries of the universe!

"To be absolutely certain of something, one must know everything or nothing about it."          Olin Miller