Jan 30, 2014

White Clouds

When choosing the toriawase, the arrangement of utensils for a chakai, or chaji the first thing you should consider is the scroll.  It sets the theme for your event and gives the guests something to think about.  Most scrolls displayed in the tea room are zen phrases written by Zen priests, monks, or abbots.  They can also be written by Zen scholars, spiritual leaders or person of inspiration.

When we enter and bow before the scroll, we are not bowing to the scroll itself.  We are bowing to the person and the spirit of the person who wrote it.  We look at the writing, which may not be the most readable, nor the most classical of script, but embodies the person who wrote it at the time they wrote it.  Observe the darkness or lightness of the ink, the wetness or dryness of the brushstrokes.  Are the strokes bold or delicate?  Do they convey movement or stability? All of these things and more can be observed by just looking at the calligraphy.  And of course you can admire it as a work of art.

The scroll hung at Hatsugama this year was written by Eido Shimano Roshi of Daibosatsu.

It reads:  Haku un onozukara kyoraisu
The English translation may be:
White clouds come and go of their own accord, or White clouds of themselves come and go

Like all Zen phrases, it may have many and deep meanings, so as a host, it would be good not only to read it when the first guest asks you to, but also to talk a little bit of what it may mean to you.  For example,
"White clouds come and go by themselves may mean that we cannot stop nature from doing what it wants, and in my life, trying to control everything is not productive, we have to let the white clouds come and go of their own accord."

In the gomei discussions, (also this post) I suggested that Zen phrases are good places to look for gomei.  "White clouds" or "come and go" can be used for gomei, and then you can recite the phrase from which the gomei is taken.

There is also a companion phrase to go with this one:  Seizan moto fudoo
The English translation may be:
Blue mountains by nature are immoveable, or blue mountains are steadfast

So if you hang the scroll haku un onozukara kyoraisu,  a very good gomei for the chashaku may be "seizan" blue mountains from the companion phrase, and then you can look like a sophisticated scholar.

As a reward for those of you who have read all the way to the bottom of this long post, I have a bonus for you.  Not all scrolls you may purchase on eBay have a scroll box.  To protect your scroll from damage and also to show some reverence for the spirit of the person who wrote it, here is a project plan for making a a scroll box of cardboard.  You can make it any size to fit your scroll perfectly. Then you can come and go as you please.

Jan 25, 2014

Out of the fire

Last night we had a very special workshop with potter Richard Brandt  firing black raku style teabowls. Richard is a long time Portland ceramic artist who also has studied chado.  He understands the form and functionality of the teabowl because he has used them in the tea ceremony.  His generous offer to hold a workshop for the students of Issoan Tea School was exhilarating and inspiring.

We began the evening choosing teabowls that Richard had already formed.  To make it fair, ecah student chose a number and we got to choose from in the order of our drawn number.

 Next the glaze was applied

While the glaze was drying, Richard gave a lecture and slide show of the history of Raku style bowls.  He emphasized the Raku is not a process, but a family name.  He also covered the differences in Japanese style rakuware  and American style rakuware where heavy metals are used to achieve iridescent colors.

The teabowls were then placed in the kiln and fired to more than 1800 degreees.

By looking at the bowls in the kiln, Richard could tell when it was time to pull them out. At the proper time, the kiln was opened and the teabowls were sitting there glowing white and orange.

It was quite dramatic as he pulled each teabowl from the kiln while it was still glowing hot and plunged it into a bucket of water.

 The teabowls heated the water to boiling temperatures but then were set on the bricks to cool further.  You can see the steam coming from the bowls as they are cooling.

And there is nothing like that first taste of tea in a brand new teabowl.

Then the bowls were carefully wrapped in presentation boxes and presented to students.  I will be naming each bowl an will calligraphy the name on the boxes for each student.

Jan 15, 2014

Inayoshi Osamu, Japanese Potter coming to Portland

Thanks to the Oregon Potters Association, Inayoshi Osamu, Japanese Potter. will be presenting a demo workshop at The Oregon College of Art and Craft.Fee structure for Inayoshi Osamu workshop (demo)Download the Inayoshi flyer
2 days
non OPA members $75, OPA $60, students $35, OCAC students no charge

1 day
non OPA $40,. OPA $35, students $20, OCAC students no charge

Seating is limited. Cash or check payments may be made directly at the workshop. To reserve your seat in the workshop, please make checks payable to The Oregon Potter’s Association and mail to:

Joe Davis Instructor of Art, Ceramics
Mt. Hood Community College
26000 SE Stark St.., Room VA30D
Gresham, OR 97030

The workshop will take place in the ceramics lab at
The Oregon College of Art and Craft
8245 SW Barnes Rd, Portland, Oregon 97225
(503) 297-5544

Please see the .pdf for more images of Inayoshi’s work and process, and also for text and links from Hank Murrow, long-time potter in Eugene.

For more information, please contact Joe Davis (503) 491-7149 Joe.Davis@mhcc.edu

Jan 13, 2014

Hatsugama First Kettle 2014

All the preparations for Hatsugama paid off and the celebration for the New Year was a great success.  8 guests in two seki attended.  The display in the tokonoma included kagami mochi and blue ceramic goishi kogo.
The scroll read "Haku un onozuakara kyorai zu"  White clouds come and go of their own accord, by Edo Shimano Roshi, of Daibosatsu.

Yoshino dana with korai seiji mizusashi by Renkyu Ri and red natsume with horses running around the rim.  The chaire was Bizen katatsuki by Sasaki Kaiho, shifuku Itō kando.

 Kama in okiro, Amidado shape, matsu jimon (pine motif) by Seiho.
Tenshin meal and nimono of seasonal foods 

Sweets, Rikyu manju, poetic name "galloping horse"

Koicha served in a black raku style bowl by Richard Brandt, chamei kashin no mukashi, Zabosai Oiemoto konomi, from Kanbayashi. Chashaku-- pink ivory wood, by Barbara Walker, gomei - daidai (generation to geneeration.  Higashi, gift from Nomura-san, served on tamenuri lacquered yohobon. Usucha hana no shiro from Kanbayashi, omojawan, grey hagi, kyoyaki kazu chawan.

 First seki

Second seki

Jan 9, 2014

Hatsugama preparations

We are lucky this time of year to be able to participate in Hatsugama, the first kettle of the year.  It is one of the biggest events of the year, and I have been preparing for this since early November.   I have developed over the years a countdown checklist that starts about 2 months out from the event.  In planning, I have tried to take into consideration everything for my guests.  What they see on the day of the chakai or chaji is effortless ease, but experienced chajin know what is involved.

We are getting down to it as Hatsugama is this Saturday, and the menu and shopping for the meal is done.  As is planning the toriawase, selection of utensils.  The tea has been ordered, the house cleaned (although in my checklist, I will be cleaning at least twice more).  The cooking won’t happen until Friday evening, and Saturday morning.  Sweets will be made Friday night and a thousand of things need to be done.

I have a fellow teacher helping me this year, and have planned for her to help students dress in kimono.  The anticipation is building and I hope the guests will appreciate wha

t I have planned for them.

Jan 8, 2014

Chokudai 2014 Shizuka

Every year, the Emperor of Japan chooses a theme, or Chokudai for the year.  Many artists create works of art, tea utensils commemorating the theme for the year.  For 2014, the theme is shizuka.  It will be interesting to see what artists come up with for shizuka.

My dictionary  defines the word as calm, quiet, still, tranquil, placid, silent, peaceful, serene, gentle, and soft.  Like many Japanese words, it is hard to find an English equivalent word that conveys the sentiment and meaning of it.  Especially in our culture, which seems to favor action words. The more contemplative words seem to get a more negative connotation, such as “placid,” which is defined as serenely free of interruption or disturbance.

In the modern world, we live in a “noisy” environment.  Smart phones, TV , radio, telephones, youtube;  everything seems to be tugging at our attention.  We need to be up to the minute in monitoring what is trending on Twitter, or what is posted on facebook, instagram, pinterest.  There is an ever increasing cacophony in our lives.

Without constant distraction, we begin to see what our lives are really about.  Without distraction, we have the time to reflect and think deeply about things.  Without distraction we can face ourselves honestly.  Perhaps that is why there is a rise in popularity of things like yoga and meditation, where we pay attention to our bodies and our thoughts.

For this year, shizuka is a good theme for me.  A reminder this year to spend time calm, quiet, still.  To bring tranquility, peacefulness and serenity into my life more consciously everyday.