search  current discussion  categories  forms - misc 

teabowls, respectfully ranted

updated mon 17 apr 00


elizabeth priddy on sun 16 apr 00

I also make a small rice bowl that I try to
keep within the principles and philosophy of
the tea ceremony. I just put them in with my
work and if a tea master came along and
chose it for tea, it would please me, but I
would probably never know. That doesn't bother
me at all. They sell for about $12, as I think
they are some of my nicest work and I want lots
of people to have one. They are priced as a
virtual gift for the person who understands it
enough to want one.

I nearly went mid-evil on a person who picked
one up and began to use it as an ashtray.
I no longer leave them out in the studio for
people to fondle due to that bit of crassness.
If I find in conversation, that someone feels
about them like I do, I will bring them out.
I keep them in a wooden box.

I happen to know for a fact that one I sold
is used exclusively for strawberries in the
spring, brought out ritualisticly only when
the strawberries are ripe...That is fine with
me, in fact, it pleases me greatly. You might
call that an american strawberry bowl, looking
deliciously like a japanese tea bowl.
Translate it into Japanese if it helps you
conceptualize it.

Perhaps american potters should worry less
about Japanese culture and contribute more to
developing our own myths and legends about our
American pots. Our souls sing no less sweetly
because we are not of asian origin.

I am tired of pundits attempting to clip wings
because there's no three thousand year old
culture behind US potters. I , being American,
am not any less a thoughtful and meaningful
worker because I was born to parents
who did not pot. I pot, and that is the sum
total that I can do about that. Let's deal
with reality for a while and allow people to
own their own mystery rather than trying to fit
into a mystery not cut from their cloth.

I want to travel to Japan someday to explore
their pottery culture first hand and fondle
some of their bowls. I will do it respectfully,
in the same way that when I studied Chinese
painting with Chinese masters, I studied
respectfully and did not presume that I really
had anything to contribute to the conversation.
But I won't be ashamed of my American-ness.
There is no reason to be. In China, I was the exotica, not them! This is all c

I think it is similar to the whole debate
recently about whether you can call yourself
a master potter. If your tea bowls are worthy
of tea, only a tea master can tell you, and
since I am not and never will be a tea master,
I can never know if my bowls are "good enough".

I know that they are not authentic and that is
why I call them rice bowls so as not to offend,
but in my soul, they are tea bowls. The phrase
"rice bowl" should clue anyone who cares in.
And beyond that it is out of my control.

I can't remember who said it, but it bears

"hands and heart cannot be separated by mind"

{translated to mean:

"no matter what you think you are making, you
will make what is in your heart, reflecting
either the beauty or the ugliness that resides


Elizabeth Priddy

Clay: 12,000 yrs and still fresh!

On Sat, 15 Apr 2000 22:24:41 rickmahaffey wrote:
>----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>Mel, Vince,
>just because someone calls what they make tea bowls does not mean that
>they are making tea bowls. At the final class for my Japanese language
>class we met at a Japanese restaurant to learn manners and practice
>speaking to the waitresses I spoke to the Kendo Sensei. He found out
>that I taught ceramics and that I was going to live in Japan and study
>clay. He immediately asked if I was going to learn to make tea bowls.
>I answered that if I were to study them for forty year I still would not
>know enough to make tea bowls. Most of us gaijin (Foreigners) don't
>know enough about Cha no yu (Tea ceremony) to begin to understand Chawan
>(tea bowls). Mel does because he was trained by someone who knew.
>A friend in Japan has a rare out of print book about tea ceramics. In
>it there are over 60 pages on trimming the foot alone. There are many
>more pages about other aspects of Tea ware, and teabowls in particular.
>Alas, it is all in Kanji.
>I make bowls that are the size of tea bowls and try to bring the right
>attitude to them. If I am lucky someone who knows the way of tea will
>see it and decide to use it for tea, much like Sen no Rikyu chose common
>rice bowls for serving tea when Cha no Yu was introduced to Japan all
>those years ago.
>Rick Mahaffey
>Tacoma Washington, USA

--== Sent via ==--
Share what you know. Learn what you don't.