Monday, July 8, 2013


It seems simple enough, you take a bowl and a somewhat sharp pieces of bamboo or other wood and hand tool a teabowl, but in reality the process is actually one of muscle memory formulas and aesthetic choices honed through years of experience. I have been rather fortunate to have watched several dozen Japanese potters hand tool their chawan and though the fundamentals are about the same, the approach and results can differ drastically. Some potters are after creating crisp, clean kodai while others are looking for a casual and asymmetrical foot to compliment the overall form of the piece. Timing is another sometimes overlooked factor, some prefer the clay rather stiff and others cut the foot while the clay is still quite wet and the process is completed with the smoothing of rough areas with a hera, the fingers and the palms of the hand. Having tried to work this way, I can attest that it really is much more difficult than it looks and maybe after thousands of pieces, the process and the formulas make more sense and are easier to reproduce, maybe number 3046 will be the charm.
Illustrated is Kohyama Yasuhisa working on one of his Shigaraki chawan. The outside diameter of the kodai has been established and he is beginning to remove clay to form the interior of the footring. Though the body of the chawan is close to leather-hard, the foot is still soft and supple enough to cut and form with tool and hand. In the end, the foot is a practical one that suits the form of the bowl well and gives a good sense of lift to the pot; simple, effective and very well practiced.

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