The Art of the Japanese Teapot: Watch a Master Craftsman at Work, from the Beginning Until the Startling End

People all over the world enjoy Japanese tea, but few of them have witnessed a proper Japanese tea ceremony — and seeing as a proper Japanese tea ceremony can last up to four hours, many probably imagine they don’t have the endurance. But Japanese tea culture holds up meticulousness as a high virtue for the preparer, the drinker, and even more so the craftsman who makes the tea ware both of them use. In the video above, you can see one such master named Shimizu Genji at work in his studio in Tokoname, a city known as a ceramics center for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Shimizu, writes the proprietor of pottery site about a visit to his workshop, “throws a block of clay onto the wheel, creating the teapot’s body, handle, spout and lid one after another, all from the same block. It really is quite mesmerising and awe-inspiring to watch.”

Once he assembles these formidably solid-looking but deceptively light pieces, he dries them out over three days, a process that offers “just one example of the time and care invested in the crafting of exquisite Tokoname teapots.” Finally comes the seaweed, of which certain pieces get a layer applied before firing. Afterward, the traces left by the seaweed create a “charred” patterning called mogake.

We would surely welcome any of Shimizu’s products, or those by the other respected practitioners of his tradition, into our home. But as with all Japanese crafts honed over countless generations, the process counts for just as much as the product, or even more so. Take, for instance, Shimizu’s process as captured by this video: we appreciate the concentration, deliberation, and sensitivity shown at each and every stage, and the pieces of the teapot as they come into existence don’t look half bad either. But if we become too attached to the final result we’ve been anticipating over these fourteen minutes — well, suffice it to say that the master craftsman has a lesson in impermanence in store for us.

Related Content:

Japanese Craftsman Spends His Life Trying to Recreate a Thousand-Year-Old Sword

The Making of Japanese Handmade Paper: A Short Film Documents an 800-Year-Old Tradition

Watch a Japanese Craftsman Lovingly Bring a Tattered Old Book Back to Near Mint Condition

The Art of Collotype: See a Near Extinct Printing Technique, as Lovingly Practiced by a Japanese Master Craftsman

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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  • john romain says:

    Flowering tea, also known as blooming tea, is a handcrafted bundle of white and green tea leaves. They usually come crumpled artistically into clusters. You then place the clumps in hot water, which gets them to unfurl their leaves beautifully. The drinker is stimulated by not only the delicious taste of the tea but its aesthetics as well.

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