white ceramic teabowl with japanese text
Oct 22, 1:00 pm - Oct 23, 3:00 pm
Lecture or Speaker

Virtual Conference

Alfred Ceramic Art Museum

Path of the Teabowl

To register for the conference, visit this Zoom link.

For questions about conference registration, contact artsevents@alfred.edu. For more information about the conference content, or to pose questions to speakers in advance of the event, contact Meghen Jones.

A conference recording will be available after the event on YouTube.

Financial support for this conference has been provided by a generous grant from the Japan–U.S. Friendship Commission and the Northeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies.

Image: Teabowl, ca. 1865–70 . Waka poem and calligraphy: Otagaki Rengetsu, Japanese, 1791– Bowl: Heian Isso, Japanese, active 19th century Stoneware with glaze, inscribed "In the future, happiness and long life– two sprouting leaves, to grow a thousand years." Collection of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, acquired through the generosity of Ellen Avril 2007.014.001


All times listed in Eastern Standard Time (New York)

FRIDAY October 22

Session 1: 1:00–3:30pm

Welcome remarks, Meghen Jones (Guest Curator, Path of the Teabowl and Associate Professor of Art History, Alfred University) and Wayne Higby (Director and Chief Curator, Alfred Ceramic Art Museum)

Robert D. Mowry (Alan J. Dworsky Curator of Chinese Art Emeritus, Harvard Art Museums, and Senior Consultant in Chinese and Korean Art, Christie's): "Tea Drinking in China and Song-Dynasty Black-Glazed Wares"

The Chinese began to drink tea around the first century AD, more as a medicine than as a beverage, and by the Tang dynasty (618–907) tea was gaining widespread popularity, not only at the imperial court but throughout society and even among Buddhist monks who found it helped to keep them awake during meditation. In the Song dynasty (960–1279), Chinese connoisseurs preferred to drink tea from dark-glazed bowls, particularly from bowls made at kilns in Fujian province. This illustrated talk will briefly discuss the origin and evolution of black-glazed wares in China from c. AD 100 until 1200, identify different types of dark-glazed wares, and examine why Chinese connoisseurs preferred those wares. The talk will conclude with an explanation of changes in aesthetic preferences and tea-drinking customs that led to the disappearance of dark-glazed wares by the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).

Philip Hu (Curator of Asian Art, Saint Louis Art Museum): "Color, Form, and Silhouette: Northern and Southern Song Tea Bowls and Related Bowl Stands from the Saint Louis Art Museum"

This talk will feature several tea bowls and related bowl stands from the collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum. These objects, from the Northern Song (960–1127) and the Southern Song (1127–1279) dynasties, represent various ware types from distinct regional kilns with white, brown, green, celadon, or bluish–white glazes, including Ding, Yaozhou, Longquan, and qingbai porcelains from Jingdezhen. The similarities and differences in the formal aspects of these tea bowls, as well as the presence or absence of decoration, reflect regional tastes across space and time.

Ellen Avril (Chief Curator and the Judith H. Stoikov Curator of Asian Art, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University): "Poetry, Painting and Informal Tea: Two Collaborative Tea Bowls in the Modern Period"

Two tea bowls lent by the Herbert F Johnson Museum of Art to the exhibition Path of the Teabowl are gassaku, collaborative creations. On a teabowl made by the Kyoto potter Isso, the nun, poet, painter and potter Otagaki Rengetsu (1791–1875) elegantly calligraphed one of her own poems. Another teabowl, made by Kyoto potter Tomioka Haruko (1847–1940), was boldly painted and inscribed by her husband, Tomioka Tessai (1836–1924). Examined in the context of bunjin culture––and tracing their roots back to Korean ceramics imported for chanoyu––these two bowls reflect artistic self–expression and informal tea practices in the Meiji and Taisho periods.


SATURDAY October 23

Session 2: 8:00am–10:15am

Seung Yeon Sang (Visiting Researcher, Autonomous University of Barcelona): "Cranes Soaring Among Clouds: The Appreciation of Koryo Celadon Teabowls"

Koryo period (918–1392) celadon teabowls demonstrate not only superb technical skill, but also a unique aesthetic sensibility discerned in glaze color and decoration. The ethereal crane, created using an inlay technique (sanggam), was one of the popular design motifs on Koryo celadon teabowls. The fact that top–grade Koryo celadon teabowls with inlaid design were excavated from the graves of the elite indicates the popularity and high status of this type of teabowl in the aristocracy's practice of tea drinking. In this paper, I will discuss contemporary perceptions and appreciation of the various aesthetic and utilitarian qualities of Koryo celadon teabowls by examining a variety of surviving tea poetry. Appreciation of Koryo celadon went beyond geographical and temporal boundaries, and the Japanese fascination with Koryo celadon, especially in the tea context, resulted in the widespread revivals of select Koryo celadon idioms such as the motif of cranes and clouds. This paper will examine ways in which pertinent Japanese examples incorporated and transformed the styles of inlaid designs of cranes and clouds on Koryo celadon and elucidate the enduring appeal of Koryo celadon teabowls.

Akiimoto Yūji (Director of the Nerima Art Museum and Professor Emeritus at Tokyo University of the Arts): "A Free Mood Bowl that Reinterprets Tradition through Subculture, Manga, and Anime Points of View"

The tea ceremony represents traditional Japanese culture, and teabowls play a central role in it. This presentation introduces artists who are reinterpreting the teabowl, bringing in the perspectives of contemporary subcultures such as manga, animation, and fashion, and turning them into works of art. The movement to modernize tradition is not limited to single bowls, but has spread to large–scale art projects such as tea rooms and gardens, and examples will be introduced for reference. The teabowls of Takuro Kuwata, Yohi Muta, Kayoko Mizumoto, and Masayasu Mitsuke will be introduced as examples. Other reinterpretations of tradition include Noritaka Tatehana's heel–less shoes, Hiroshi Sugimoto's glass tea house, the Enoura Weather Station art project, and Takuro Kuwata's installation of sculptures in the precincts of shrines.

Shinya Maezaki (Professor of Art History, Kyoto Women's University): "The History of Teabowls from the Perspective of Supply and Demand"

When throwing a teabowl on the potter's wheel, the maker spends most of the time looking at the inside to create the shape. This is because the interior is most important in highlighting the deep green of the tea. The exterior is only the result of the inside having been carefully crafted. However, when talking about the teabowl as an art object, people rely on photographs of the outside of bowls, thereby focusing primarily on their exteriors. For this presentation, I would like to touch on the often overlooked history of the inside of the Japanese teabowl. Domestic production is clearly stimulated by tea utensil stylistic trends and increases in demand. Teabowls cannot exist unless there are people who want to use them to make matcha. The historical flow of teabowl supply and demand reveals the importance the inside of teabowls, a topic not widely discussed.


~tea break~

Session 3: 10:30am–11:45am

Andrew L. Maske (Associate Professor of Art History, University of Kentucky): View–ing the Teabowl: The Role of Keshiki in Chawan Appreciation

The exterior of a teabowl bears what is typically called its keshiki or "view." Although the keshiki may consist of a recognizable painted image, it often comprises simply a notable variation of the glaze. The keshiki is not only a notable point of aesthetic appreciation but serves practical functions as well. This presentation explores the development of keshiki approaches and analyzes how this characteristic interacts with teabowl form to create a cohesive aesthetic experience for the user.

Natsu Oyobe (Curator of Asian Art, the University of Michigan Museum of Art): "The Teabowl in Contemporary Toriawase: Activating the Vessel for A One and Only Encounter"

In chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony), toriawase or the "selection and arrangement of objects" is a crucial element in creating a one and only encounter for the guest. The tea objects are carefully chosen according to the season, location, guest, and occasion to convey special meaning, associations, and relationships between people and across time. It was the 17th century masters of wabi tea, who established the concept of toriawase through an intense discrimination emphasizing an aesthetic based on these relationships, using objects of heterogeneous origins, from China, Korea, Japan, and elsewhere. In the contemporary age, the wabi tea toriawase continues to set the standard, and the teabowl, as the object that the guest engages with most intimately in chanoyu, came to play the central role among tea objects. How do contemporary ceramic artists intend to produce, and tea practitioners select, the teabowl, considering its central role? In what way does the teabowl contribute to create the unique occasion? Drawing from contemporary toriawase examples, this presentation examines how the teabowl activates and is activated in space and time, and considers some of the clues behind the teabowl's enduring allure for contemporary makers and users.


~lunch break~

Session 4: 12:30–3:00pm

Morgan Pitelka (Chair, Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and Professor, Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), "The Social Life of Raku Teabowls"

In this presentation, I will argue that Raku teabowls, perhaps the most important style of ceramics in the wabi (rustic) tea tradition in Japan, are best understood as profoundly social works. Potters made Raku teabowls with the sociability of the tea gathering in mind, and the distinctive characteristics of famous Raku works connect directly to the changing social contexts of tea culture over time. I will examine the origins of the Raku technique in a disorderly period of political and cultural change in the late sixteenth century. I will then illustrate the evolution of the Raku tradition with reference to the involvement of amateur potters, the patronage of Sen tea schools, competition and branding, increasing demand for tea bowls due to the popularization of tea practice, and the precarious success that Raku potters achieved by the end of the Edo period (1603–1868). I will conclude by considering how the understanding of Raku teabowls as iconic Japanese objects developed in the modern era in three distinct phases, as new social formations led to transformations in the creation, use, and discussion of the Raku style.

Meghen Jones (Guest Curator, Path of the Teabowl and Associate Professor of Art History, Alfred University) "The Teabowl at Alfred"

Over the 120–plus–year history of what is now the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, a discourse of the teabowl evolved. In the 1920s, Charles Fergus Binns–– its founder and the "father" of American studio pottery––found stylistic inspiration in smooth, symmetrical brown and black–glazed teabowls of China's Song dynasty. By the late 1940s, when ceramist Robert Turner studied at Alfred, potters saw the teabowl as an exercise in ideal form. To Daniel Rhodes, who taught at Alfred from 1947 to 1973 and had conducted researched in Japan in 1962–63, the teabowl idiom possessed an "inner mystical spirit." And by 1998, when Peter Voulkos received the Charles Fergus Binns Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Ceramic Art at Alfred, an iconoclasm towards the teabowl emerged. This presentation considers the disarticulation of culturally iconic East Asian teabowls within North American contexts, taking Alfred as a case study for the teabowl idiom as symbol/index/icon.


Alfred Ceramic Art faculty roundtable

Alfred University Ceramic Art faculty members John Gill, Wayne Higby, Matt Kelleher, Walter McConnell, Linda Sikora (moderator), and Adero Willard will discuss the teabowl idiom in light of the Path of the Teabowl exhibition and conference.

Closing remarks: Wayne Higby and Meghen Jones

For more information visit Alfred Ceramic Art Museum Website