In Praise of Shadows

Early this summer I had the honor of being invited, by a private online Tea Community, to create teawares as a special offering to its members. I created Tea Bowls and Cups each with its own presentation stand. The pieces were developed in two styles, one textural and the other not. I used only two glazes, a Carbon Trap Shino on the textural pieces and Shino over Alberta Slip on the others. The stands where a dark stoneware clay glazed simply with straight Ponderosa Pine Ash. Below are a few images of pieces from my Special Offering and a few words about the process. Note: Double clicking images will enlarge them. Thank You

A few thoughts about the process of creating the works for my Special Offering to the Tea Community.

The pieces were Created, Bisqued Fired, Glazed and finally given over to the potential calamity of the violent inferno of the Kiln. All these steps come with a certain level of anticipation and forward visioning, even though I’ve spent decades practicing the discipline to not envision a specific result, it’s hard not too.

The Glaze Firing went well, and despite my attempts to suspend a vision of the work inside the kiln, I was viewing finished works in my head. Upon opening the long cooling kiln I was again, as always surprised. I had visions of pieces with a more “graphic” visual and tactile presence. The kiln had other “visions.”

The kiln’s “vision” was to cause a kind of “forced restraint” upon the work in this firing. I liked the works before me, still too hot to touch, I had time to think. I was being reminded of a valuable lesson as well as being reminded of a short book I read over 30 years ago on Aesthetics, “In Praise of Shadows.”

“In Praise of Shadows”, was written by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki and was originally published in 1933 in Japanese and later translated to English in 1977. The essay consists of 16 sections that discuss traditional Japanese aesthetics in contrast with change. Comparisons of light with darkness are used to contrast Western and Asian cultures.

The West, in its striving for progress, is presented as continuously searching for light and clarity, while the subtle and subdued forms of oriental art and literature are seen by Tanizaki to represent an appreciation of shadow and subtlety. In addition to contrasting light and dark, Tanizaki further considers the layered tones of various kinds of shadows and their power to reflect low sheen materials like gold embroidery, patina and cloudy crystals.

The works being offered here require close study to fully appreciate the depth of nuance in the glaze finish. They don’t shout their presence, they are comfortable in the realm of the intimate object.

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4 Responses to In Praise of Shadows

  1. Adam Yusko says:

    I have one of these peices, and I must say it is wonderful to have as part of my collection, I especially like the added touch of the stand. I got one of the more tactile carved ones, and I am incredibly happy with it.

    Thank you for participating in this offering.

    • shyrabbit says:

      Thanks Adam for commenting here, I really appreciate it. I’m glad to hear you are enjoying your piece(s). It was my pleasure to participate in this Special Offering.

  2. Maureen Johnson says:

    Very beautiful Michael, and love reading about the purpose, and philosophy behind your pieces. To me pottery is like my life, always making a statement, always reasoning behind it, and each piece I make I find gives me a deeper understanding of myself, others, and life in general. Everything I have done in my life is for a reason, not just random wantonness. That is way too shallow, and way too meaningless for me. I realize that there are many people who do things all for different reasons but that is what sets us all apart. I love your work, and your tea bowls, thanks so much for sharing this with me. I always learn something, and take something away from your works. 🙂

  3. shyrabbit says:

    Thank you Maureen for your kind works regarding my work and particularly for sharing a bit of your personal thoughts and philosophies.

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