Friday, September 26, 2014


I recently saw a video from a Japanese TV show where they show a huge chawan made during the Meiji period, it was about two feet in diameter and it got me thinking again about volume and scale in relationship to chadogu, but chawan in particular. Though two feet is just a bit large for a chawan, the o-buri super sized Hagi chawan of Miwa Kyusetsu XI (Jyusetsu) spring to mind. Mostly made in last two decades of his life, some of Miwa's chawan are positively huge, what exactly is the intent? Do these chawan transcends mere function and practicality to be conceptual vessels or more a statement about chawan than necessarily being chawan themselves? I have seen a few of these pots in person, beyond the aspects of function, these pots seem infused with pure masculinity and bravado, sculpture intended for use and aesthetic appreciation. In a magazine somewhere, I have a photo of a Kyusetsu chawan on display in the tokonoma, as a basin with a flower floating in the bowl filled with water and in another book there is a Oni-Hagi teabowl that measures 21.8cm in diameter where the average chawan comes in somewhere around 12.5cm. Functional vessel, sculpture or purely an object for appreciation, I wonder if he didn't make them like this, simply because he wanted to and he could.
As I continue to contemplate  size, scale and volume, besides Miwa Kyusetsu, both Tsukigata Nahiko and Kumano Kuroemon come  to mind. For Tsukigata, the "bushi" (Samurai warrior) ideal would seem to be part of his motivation for creating such large and powerful chawan, but for Kumano, I have often suspected that his large chawan are created at such a scale simply to match the ferocity and intensity of the firing process where the pots and potter are pushed to the brink. As I survey his large chawan I can get caught up in fantasy and imagine such bowls in use by the likes of a Sumo Yokozuna (grand champion) or the Ogre of Mt. Oe (Shuten-Doji) should either partake of tea. Illustrated is a large Kuma-Shino chawan by Kumano Kuroemon. I took the picture with me holding the bowl for scale, I am 6'2" and wear and X-L glove for perspective and this bowl measures in at just over 16.5cm, I think the size of the pot is apparent. Though I have heard Kumano's works described as grotesque (in form and scale) by some, to me there is a brutal, honest beauty to these pots. Their stories and encounters with unheard of temperatures and firings are permanently fused within their surfaces and forms. There are few potters who decide to work at this scale and even fewer who can pull it off but Kumano alone has become synonymous with chawan (and spirit) that are larger than life.