Tuesday, 10 July 2007

New Teabowls!

I unpacked a kiln load of pots the other day, after they had cooled from firing. I was very pleased with the results. Many people have been waiting for rice bowls for a long time, so I finally managed to get some done. I make two traditional sizes, 11.5cm diameter small and 13cm diameter large. It is important to find a size that fits you hand.

The name of a rice bowl in Japanese is "Gohan Chawan" which literally means "Rice Teabowl". It was traditional to serve tea in the bowl after the rice was finished at the end of a meal. Particularly in lean times this ensured that you made the most of every skerrick of nutrition.

Of course among the wide variety of "Chawan" is the powdered green tea bowl, the
"Machawan". Used in the tea ceremony for making and drinking the powdered tea, its use and therefore shape are very specific. Different shapes, proportions and colours are dependant on the type of tea, the season, the place the tea ceremony is to be performed.

Out of this firing came a new series of "Machawan" to be used for the outdoor tea ceremony. They are smaller than a normal teabowl, only 10cm diameter and 7cm high, as they are to be carried with a portable tea ceremony set. These are often taken on mountain or forest walks, and when a suitably beautiful place is found the tea can be enjoyed in the open air. Rather like a picnic.

What is very important with a Machawan is the inside. This is the space where the tea exists, and the surface, the colour and the shape must all work to enhance the green tea. The black glaze works very well to lift the colour and is very smooth and easy to whisk the tea.

The orange colour of the woodfired flashing also brings out the best of the green tea, and with its soft natural tones is beautiful in an open environment. The indentation in the centre of the bowl is called a "Chadome" and is a space where the residue can run when the tea had been enjoyed.

Of course the face of the teabowl is important as well, as this is what you show to your guest when you pass them the bowl. Like any functional pot, they need to be understood in context.

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