A Jian Ware Teabowl

IMG_0726On my first rip to China in 2014 I made a trip down to the source of Tenmoku in a small valley outside of Shuiji in Fujain Province. In a future blog I will write about both that trip and the follow up trip in 2015. One of the things I was able to do on that trip was to purchase a small Jian Ware tea bowl.

This bowl is typical of the Millions made in the multitude of kilns in this valley over some 200 years during the Song Dynasty. It is small, the clay is rough and it is surprisingly thickly thrown and turned. I can visualise its maker, sitting at his Chinese style kick wheel, throwing a large lump of clay onto the wheel, roughly centring it before separating enough clay to make this bowl. Like he had done perhaps 10.000 times before, at least 100 times that day, caressing the clay lump with his two hand, coercing it with gentle but persuasive pressure to the centre of the wheel head. He would then use his thumb to open it out, forming an indentation that had just a hint of the bowl of the come. Now he would shift his hands almost imperceptibly, using the fingers of his inside hand to again gently push the clay across the base and, very subtly, to lift up. At this very point his outside fingers would collect the clay and by using the sensitivity developed over years, pull the clay up and out to form the basis of his bowls shape.  Continue reading

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Why Tenmoku?

I came to clay later than most. I was a shift supervisor in a large flour mill and, along with my wife, I went to a local evening college to play with clay. My response to the medium was immediate, and I had no doubt that it was the means for my future creative expression. Four years later I became a full-time Art student at East Sydney Technical College (ESTC now the National Art School, but back then just “The Tech”.)

As a ceramics student in the 70’s we immersed ourselves in the Leach tradition, carting our copy of Leach’s “A Potters Book” with us everywhere. Pouring over every works and every image, debating meanings late into the night. We all came to believe that the standard to which we should aspire were the pots of the Song Dynasty.

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