Monday, 7 January 2013

What's in a name?


I had an invitation recently to send an application for an International Chawan exhibition. What's surprising about this is, I don't consider myself a maker of Chawans or not that I am aware of. 
I looked up the definition just to find out exactly what a Chawan really is.

chawan (Chinese茶碗; literally "tea bowl") is a bowl used for preparing and drinking tea. There are many types of chawan used in tea ceremonies, and the choice of their use depends upon many considerations. In addition to being used for Chinese tea, it is used for matcha (powdered green tea) in the Japanese tea ceremony.

Thanks Wiki.

That's the simple definition , it gets a lot more complicated the more you delve into it. I'm afraid that not much of it was part of my growing up, so the subtleties are lost on me. Crockery was pretty basic in our house. Some of Gran's old stuff, some picked up along the way with a smattering of Hornsea Pottery, which is now sixties iconic stuff that my Mum was partial to and collected, but never seemed to be able to get enough to make a complete place setting for a family of seven kids.

Making tea bowls seems to be part of most potters repertoire and I have attempted one or two in my time. That started back in the days when I used to fire an Anagama kiln with a wood firing society. You just had to make some to join in the post firing critique to be considered 'in'.

They are fun to make, I start with a pellet of clay which I flatten and add a coil to make a foot-ring, flip it over and  then build up the walls with coils. I make two or three and I hang them over the edge of the shelf at the front of the kiln to get maximum fly ash and heat to make the glazes run. When it all comes together the results can be quite pleasing.

I don't know what my Mum would have thought of them though. 
"Why that's good mind, it's a canny bowl son, but it would not hold much soup".
Dad would have been more direct.
"Needs a handle".

Mostly I make them for my own amusement, but you have to be wary of the self appointed experts and 'Tea masters' that you meet along the way.
Evidently there should be a depression in the bottom to allow the tea sediment to collect. So next time when I have considered this and incorporated this feature the next authority fails to agree.
It should be smooth so that you can whisk the matcha and maybe it should be a bit bigger.
Foot ring is completely wrong and it's too big and heavy.

I sold one at Christmas. The lady that bought it seemed very pleased with the shape, size and design as she intended planting snowdrops in it.

Now that's an idea... an International Snowdrop bowl exhibition.

Sorry it's too early for snowdrops!


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