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Fresh Water Jar, approx.1573–1615

Fresh water jar

Fresh water jar, approx. 1573–1615. Japan; Mie prefecture. Iga ware, stoneware with natural ash glaze. Museum Purchase, B68P4.

How is this used in the tea gathering?
This container is used to hold fresh, cold water, which is used to replenish hot water used from the kettle and to rinse the tea bowl after it has been used for tea.

What is this object made from?
The container is stoneware. The clay is fired in a kiln to about 2300 degrees Fahrenheit, and becomes hard and almost completely watertight. The greenish drips are natural ash glaze—ashes from the wood fire fall onto the piece and because of the high heat are transformed into a glassy substance. This sort of accidental glaze, which is highly desired, is difficult to control and predict. The end result is only seen after the kiln has cooled for a few days, and the artist has removed the vessels. Inevitably some pieces will have cracked, broken, become fused with adjacent pieces, or not turned out as hoped. Do you think the artist was happy with this piece? Why or why not? The lid is a piece of wood shaped to fit the opening and covered with black lacquer, a hard, waterproof coating made from sap of the lacquer tree. Most likely, a different artist specializing in lacquered wood created the lid.

Why is the shape of the body so uneven?
This was done on purpose by the potter to give the piece a rustic character and make it more interesting. The potter probably shaped the clay using a potter’s wheel and then deliberately dented and squashed the clay into this shape before placing it in the kiln.

Suggested Activity:
Compare this water jar with the lacquer Incense Container with Design of Plovers. Make two columns on a board and collect words that you would use to describe each work. Have you come up with contrasting terms? You are exploring two different aesthetics or styles. Tea people enjoy mixing and matching different styles, textures, and sizes of utensils in a single tea gathering. As a group create a name for these two contrasting styles.

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