This past weekend our tea group had a gathering with a group of Japanese ceramic artists who are having a show here. So first I need to plug the show, which is called Five by Eight – five featured pieces from eight different artists – at The Clay Studio on 2nd Street in Philadelphia. They all have very different, very contemporary styles… here’s a link to the exhibition, where you can see photos.
On Saturday, the exhibition organizer, Makiko Maki, arranged with Taeko Shervin-sensei do to a tea ceremony exchange of sorts – one of the artists in the exhibition would do tea for us, and we would do tea for the group. They very kindly brought their pieces to use – two or three teabowls from each artist (none of which were in the exhibition, so we got an exclusive look), plus a ceramic natsume (tea container), mizusashi (cold water container), and kensui. One of the most impressive things to me – in a long line of impressive things – was that the brazier that held the fire (furo) and the kettle for the water (kama) were also ceramic. Ordinarily they would be metal, particularly the kettle, and they’re fairly big – the furo was probably about 15 inches in diameter and the kama was made to sit on top of it, so maybe 9-10 inches in diameter. It must have been hard to make something that fit together so perfectly.
The tea was a treat to watch because the person who did it was from the Sohen-ryu school, one that doesn’t have a huge presence outside Japan and one that I’d personally never seen before. The host was very skilled, and it was so interesting to see the differences.
The bowls were amazing, of course. They brought bowls out from the kitchen so that everybody had their own, and once we drank the tea we passed them around so everyone could have a look. The main bowl (the one that the host used to prepare tea) had overlapping geometric shapes that looked a bit like a checkerboard; the second bowl was white with a pattern of autumn grasses in orange. The others varied from a sculptural white bowl to a couple with a highly textured black finish, and probably the most popular one was a bowl with a light blue-green, translucent ash glaze.
(I know, you’re probably saying, “Where are the photos?” I’m so sorry, I don’t have any – if I get some, I will post them.)
It was a beautiful day all the way around, and I’m so grateful to all of the artists involved, and especially Maki-san, who worked so hard to make this and the exhibition itself happen.