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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