I generally work on a three week cycle of making, glazing and firing. At the start of each new cycle, I like to get warmed up by making a few tea bowls, or chawan. The forms are simple and the throwing is relaxed. It's a good time to become centred again about clay and the kinds of pieces planned for the next firing. The tea bowls are also a good starting point for a day of glazing.
A tea bowl is a fine example of the kind of continuum that is often seen in pottery, that moves through philosophy, art and science. The design of one often aims for a sophisticated simplicity difficult to achieve! that lends itself to quiet contemplation and appreciation of the piece. As well, the science of glazing and firing play a crucial role.
The diameter of most tea bowls relates to the traditional width of a rice bowl. By touching your thumb tips together, and your middle finger tips together, you make a circle about 11 - 12 cm in diameter the width of many tea bowls. This size is comfortable to hold.
I've been making tea bowls for about forty years. Here are a five examples.
This is one of my earliest tea bowls. It was raku fired in 1969 and it's 7 cm tall and 11.3 cm wide. The three black dots along the lower edge are finger marks from when the bowl was dipped in the glaze.
This wheel thrown tea bowl is made of stoneware clay, and glazed with a chun type glaze. It was fired to cone 10 reduction. Copper decoration on the glaze produces a varied colour response from black to green to raspberry red. This piece is about 8.7 cm tall and 11.7 cm wide. It was made in 2008.
This is a hand built tea bowl made of stoneware with a maple wood ash, clay and feldspar glaze. I think of this as my Canada glaze, since all of the ingredients are from the country. It has a mishima type decoration underneath the glaze. This piece is about 8.5 cm tall and 14.5 cm wide. It was made in 2008.
This is a hand built tea bowl made of stoneware with a maple wood ash, clay and feldspar glaze. It was fired to cone 10 reduction. It has a mishima type decoration underneath the glaze. This piece is about 8.5 cm tall and 14.5 cm wide. It was made in 2008.
This thrown tea bowl has been re-fired multiple times to get the surface I wanted. Sometimes if I have some extra room in a firing I'll add some more glaze to it and take it up to temperature again. It may have more firings in its future. Most recently fired in 2008. It is 9.5 cm tall, and 12 cm wide.
There is one more example of a tea bowl on my Links