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teabowls, anyone on aesthetics?

updated fri 31 jan 97


Hiro Matsusaki on sat 25 jan 97

Hi, everyone.

I am a newbie in the latest of the cyber and clay space, but I 've had a lot
of experience in both areas before and after I started a semi-retired life
recently. The experience has enriched my life, but consists mainly of of
ungorgettable errors, mistakes and blunders.

I have enjoyed your discussion on technical matters. They have been quite
valuable to me. Due to my background, however, I have been attracted to your
talks triggered by a question on winter and summer teabowls, as well. Maybe
I can add something there. I remember seeing one "national treasure" teabowl
in an exhibit of the 15 and 16 century culture in Japan a couple of years

The black homespun "cup" (was not bowl shaped) struck me as much larger than
I had pictured in my mind from the limited knowledge I had accumulated by
then. It looked as if it was an oversized boy, as much larger than I had
expected. It was a startling revelation to my preconceived notion from
pottery making till then. I have since discovered that typically larger tea
vessels reached more than 8 cm tall and 14 cm in diameter, as practiced
today. Imagine a straight coffee mug of over 5" in diameter and more than
10" tall, with handle removed and the top two third cut off to make it
shorter. That's how it looked like. And how it is today. There may have
been even larger ones which have not survived. The one I saw was not bowl
shaped. It shows the asymmetrical lip, side, and colors much better than
bowl shapes, I think.

Throughout the history of four hundred years in the ways of the tea ceremony,
prevailing fashion and aesthetics of the tea vessels have changed, of course,
from the imported bowls of Tao Dynasty in China, Korea, then domestic
imitations or originals and hand-made raku pieces, etc. History tells us
that as time went on, and as things got tougher, the vessels and the ritual
became standardized, produced cheaply and smaller in size and scale, and so
on. Since Japan's economy started to have serious problems in the 1991 (no
credit to Japan bashing, though--they did it all to themselves, I think),
things have been pretty bleak for the traditional pottery in Japan. No more
of those conspicuous consumption, as can be found with the most expensive
teabowl in history.

Merchants paid a fortune for teabowls in those days. Recall some sensational
news that a Japanese paid a fortune on a French painting, thus becoming an
instant object of curiosity and notoriety, plus a personal disdain from me.
Things were extravagant, then, already. Things do not change, I guess.
History repeats itself. Aesthetics may be the same. It reflects the trend
of the times.

Hiro MatsusakiFax .403.963.7954 Phone1.403.963.3809