It is only in the last few years that I felt I had sufficient knowledge and understanding to undertake making my own tea bowls. The Japanese tea bowls that most resonate with me are the Raku tea bowls – the first tea bowls specifically designed for the tea ceremony by the legendary tea master Sen no Rikyu in the late 16th century. Raku tea bowls have been made continually since then in Kyoto by members of the Raku family. Pictured is a contemporary black Raku tea bowl from my collection.
I have utilized the straight-sided, curved bottom, low-footed form that has become known as the “raku” tea bowl form, and make my tea bowls by hand rather than by throwing them on the wheel. More importantly, I have attempted to achieve their spirit of refined simplicity and quiet elegance.
I do not attempt to copy the Raku tea bowls. They are made from earthenware, mine from porcelain. They are glazed, hand built from a single piece of clay, fired in a very small charcoal-fueled kiln, and cooled very quickly. Mine are unglazed, coiled, and pinched, fired in my wood-fueled kiln, and cooled as slowly as possible. Pictured are two of my tea bowls.
The feet (“kodai”) of my tea bowls have evolved from the simple foot of a Raku tea bowl to a more pronounced notched foot that is part of the ceramic tradition of Hagi, a small ceramic town in western Japan that has been making wonderful teaware since the 16th century, such as the notched-foot tea bowls by Miwa Kyusetsu, a Hagi Living National Treasure.