How was this tea bowl made?
The artist shaped this tea bowl by hand, covered it with a glaze, and then fired it at a relatively low temperature. This makes the bowl feel softer to the touch than ceramics fired at a higher temperature.
Who was the artist?
Raku Sonyu (1664–1716) was the fifth-generation potter in the Raku family; the family has been producing tea wares in Kyoto since the 1500s. Today the fifteenth generation of the Raku family, Raku Kichizaemon (born 1949) is still creating bowls for tea gatherings using techniques developed by his ancestor, the first-generation potter, Raku Chojiro (died 1589).
How is this used in the tea gathering?
The tea bowl is one of the most important utensils in a tea gathering—it is the vessel in which the tea is made by the host and from which it is drunk by the guest. The bowl is admired as a work of art beyond its practical use as a vessel for preparing and drinking tea. This bowl is used in the summertime. Because of its broad opening and shallow depth, it will allow the tea to cool off faster than a deep, narrow bowl.
Why give a bowl a poetic name?
The bowl was named Summer Festival Music by the tea master Nintokusai (the tenth-generation Grand Master of the Urasenke tradition of tea, who was active from 1801–1826). Utensils, such as bowls, bamboo scoops, and tea containers sometimes, are given poetic names by the maker, a Zen priest, or a tea master. These names, especially when given by someone famous, increase the value of the object, and create a sort of “life history” of the piece.
Discussion/Activity: Naming Objects
How does the name affect your impression of this artwork? What images do the words convey? Which senses are involved in this name? If you were to give a name to this bowl, what would it be? Brainstorm poetic names for some of the artworks in the "Related Resources" below.