Jul 22, 2009

C.H.A. Creative Handmade Art

Creative Handmade Art
Year II

This show presents a collection of artists who study the way of tea.
…a way of beauty
…a way of life

Richard Brandt, Sanje Elliott, Jan Waldmann, Barbara Walker, and Margie Yap.

Together, with other special guest artists, we offer objects in clay, wood, painting and calligraphy in the spirit of peace and hospitality.

Come join us in this spirit.

August 7th, Opening Gala: 5:00 pm until 8:00 pm.
8th, Noon until 5:00 pm
9th, Noon until 5:00 pm

8855 SW 36th Ave., Portland, Oregon, 97219

Jul 21, 2009

The false choice

I was looking for something to watch on TV the other day. I have digital cable with more than 168 channels, and there was nothing on. Yet I kept flipping from channel to channel for a couple of hours to see if there was something that looked interesting to me. Yes, I have 168 channels to choose from, but nothing that I wanted. To me there really was nothing to choose from.

On the other hand, I went to the fabric store to get some fabric to make a handbag. There were rows upon rows of beautiful fabric. I spent an hour and a half there and ultimately left with nothing because I was so overwhelmed that I could not choose a fabric.

When I was in Kyoto to pick out fabric for my first kimono and obi, I became so sensory overloaded that I just wanted to pick things out at random. There were other women with me who looked at all of the choices and asked the shop owner to bring even more fabrics and obi from the store room to look at. I had to leave temporarily and take a walk around the block. Fortunately, the kimono shop owner recommended three colors and fabrics with obi to match. I made my choice from the of the three combinations and it is still my favorite kimono and obi.

With all of the abundance of choice in these three instances, I could not make a choice. Why is that? There is almost too much to choose from that often leads to paralysis. Is it the right choice? How do we know what we want? What if we don't know? Can we go back and choose again if it isn't right?

As for choosing, there is so much potential. The point of choosing is a powerful position to be in. All the possibilities open for you. But what if we make the wrong choice? Once the choice is made, we have excluded all the possibilities except the choice we have made. It may lead to buyer's remorse or regretting the choice already made.

We are almost too rich with choice. I tend to get overwhelmed if I have too much to choose from. If I limit my choices, it is much easier for me to make a decision without regrets. And once I make a choice, I try not to think about what could have been had I made another choice. If things don't work out, it helps to look at it as if I had another choice to make rather than go back and make a different choice.

How does this relate to chado? On the surface of tea, it seems like there is very little choice in how to do it or what to do. For some people it looks overly restrictive and very rigid. In fact, as we are learning, there are restrictions. But that is because tea is so wide and so deep, that the beginning student can easily become overwhelmed. As we learn the way of tea, even within the restrictions, there is so much potential for creativity. By limiting and simplifying the choices a student makes and revealing the depth of the few choices he can make, he can see the whole in a different light and the choices become more meaningful. In fact, when it comes to choice less is more.

Jul 16, 2009

Performance Anxiety

Doing temae in class is sometimes intimidating, especially when we are learning a new procedure. We want to get it right from the very beginning. Many students have performance anxiety and can do procedures at home but make mistakes or forget the order in front of sensei.

I used to get very nervous before class and worried if I was going to forget something. But after many years of class, and some very kind (but strict) sensei, I have come to the conclusion that performance anxiety is ultimately a self-centered thing. When I should have thought about making the very best tea for my guests, I worried about how I looked. When I should have concentrated on being as natural and relaxed for so my guests enjoyed the experience, I was tense and worried about doing things in the correct order. When I should have made a mistake beautifully, I became embarrassed and forgot what the next thing to do was.

My sensei told me that the classroom is the place to make your mistakes. (And believe me; I have made some real doozies). If you look at mistakes in your temae as learning opportunities, then the outcome is not whether you did it right or wrong, but what did you learn from it. How do you handle a mistake or lapse of memory? Do you get flustered? Do you lose your place? How do you recover from a mistake?

Sometimes we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. Often the lessons we learn in the tea room have nothing to do with the temae and correct procedures. How you are in the tea room ultimately is how you are in life. If you can detach enough to see how you behave in the tea room, many lessons will open up for the rest of your life.

Torigai-sensei in Kyoto was watching me make tea one day, and afterwards, told me, “Marjorie, you will never have a perfect temae.” I was disappointed that after I worked so hard she thought I would never achieve a perfect temae. “However, you are very interesting to watch. You are able to work yourself out of your mistakes and come out fine in the end.”

Presentation July 18th
Issoan tea will be at the Portland Japanese Garden on Saturday July 18th at 1:00 and 2:00 pm for a demonstration of Chanoyu. Free with admission to the garden. Come down to the tea house for an explanation and to see Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Jul 12, 2009

A Pure Heart Creates Pure Tea

Sei (Purity) is one of the four principles of Chanoyu. Purity is the quality of having an open mind and heart; which is reflected in the care the host puts into the ritual purification of the tea utensils. The purification is done in full view of the guests and is an important part of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Recently, my Sensei gave me the gift of a new Fukusa. This beautiful, square piece of silk is bold red and so far, untamed. Men and women often use different colored Fukusa. Women typically use a color associated with male energy (Yang), while men use a color such as violet, representative of female energy (Yin). As in all things, balance is essential.

The Fukusa is used in the tea ceremony to purify the Natsume (tea container) and Chashaku (tea scoop). During the course of the ceremony, the Fukusa is folded and refolded so that a new surface is used each time. In this way, the cloth is always new, always clean, always pure.

Tea is made by combining two simple ingredients: hot water and matcha. Each element is pure and complete in its own right. When combined, the purest form of tea is produced. Sugar is never added to the tea itself. Instead, guests are invited to eat a sweet before the tea is served.

The pure intentions of the host are reflected in the care for the utensils, the clean water and the minimalistic decor of the tea room itself. Each movement and each item have a clear purpose which create the atmosphere for the simplest of beverages to be sincerely enjoyed and purely appreciated.

Jul 5, 2009

Zen and tea scrolls

I'd like to post a link to Phillytea blog. Morgan took very good notes during Roshi's talk about Zen and tea scrolls. Much better than mine. Please go check it out.

In the meantime for those of you who would like a little more reading on Zen calligraphy scrolls, there is a very good book by Eido Roshi and Tani Roshi who both wrote the scroll we used for the koicha seki where I made tea for Eido Roshi at Dai Bosatsu last month.

Zen Words, Zen Calligraphy
by Eido Tai Shimano, Kogetsu Tani (Illustrator)
ISBN-10: 1570621276
ISBN-13: 978-1570621277
Calligraphy by Tani Roshi, commentary by Eido Roshi. The heart of Zen is expressed here in beautiful Japanese calligraphies, some of them just a word, other a famous Zen phrase from a person from a poem, koan, or anecdote. Shimano, a well-known Japanese-American Zen master, uses Zen stories and teachings to illuminate the inner meanings of each calligraphy.

Jul 4, 2009


I had one day left in New York after the Friends in Tea conference. Roger had given a couple of us a ride as far as a train station near his house and we took the train into Manhattan. We checked into an inexpensive but nice hotel on the upper west side and had a fabulous Indian dinner before retiring.

The next day we went to Minamoto Kitchoan and I bought sweets to take home to my students. A friend was going to meet us for lunch, but on Monday many places are just not open for business. We were hot and tired and I was rather irritated. We wandered around for a time and found a small boutique shop with interesting interior décor. We asked if they knew of a place that sold Japanese antiques, and the sales clerk said that the gallery upstairs had some contemporary ceramics, but didn’t know if they were open.

We took the elevator up to the fourth floor and there it was. The tea room described in the Wall Street Journal Article was right there to the left. We invited ourselves in and Mr. Yoshi Munemura was gracious enough to show us the room, serve us some tea and talk about tea, tea utensils and the Yanagi Gallery

We took the elevator up to the fourth floor and there it was. The tea room described in the Wall Street Journal Article was right there to the left. We invited ourselves in and Mr. Yoshi Munemura was gracious enough to show us the room, serve us some tea and talk about tea, tea utensils and the Yanagi Gallery. The tea room itself was an 8 mat room with a host entrance and tokonoma on two sides for display. There was a temaeza set up with Japanese contemporary ceramics, a furokama, tea bowl, chaire, and mizusashi.

Then along the guest side was a footwell that you could put your feet into, and beyond that was a half tatami mat cut lengthwise so you could sit on it with your feet in the well.

We were lucky to have seen it, according to Mr. Munemura, because the tea room will be taken down for the next exhibition this fall. I love it when things like this happen.