Many people consider the teapot as the measure of a potter; however for me the humble tea bowl represents the height of the potter’s art. Tea bowls are an integral part of the Japanese Tea Ceremony and take on near mystical qualities in that setting. For those of us not brought up in that culture, tea bowls still maintain an aura of reverence. However the great potter and educator Ken Ferguson of The Kansas City Art Institute, when asked many years ago at a workshop at Berry College what he did with all his tea bowls replied, “…the wife and I watch TV and eat ice cream out of them”. This may be the most “Zen” statement about a tea bowl that I have ever heard!
Tea Bowls are the Haiku of clay. Consisting of few parts, they are exceedingly simple to make and at the same time devilishly hard to make well. Because the form is so minimal, every bump, gash, bubble, crack, drip, flaw or undulating rim takes on increased significance. To be successful, all these elements need to work together harmoniously and at the same time should look causal and effortless in their creation. For me, tea bowls are a lifelong pursuit, one that I come back to again and again.