Tea bowl and shifuku (drawstring pouch)

DATE: 17-18th century (made)
PLACE: Japan (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Red earthenware (raku) with gold lacquer repairs (kinsuji)

Red Raku, a style of pottery made with red clays, originated in the former Japanese capital of Kyoto and was highly esteemed by Japanese tea masters. Rather than throwing the clay on the potter’s wheel, Raku teawares such as this tea bowl are hand-modelled with an irregular rim, while the surfaces are smoothed with a spatula. The repairs on this tea bowl are known as kintsukuroi or more commonly in the West as Kintsugi. Sap from the lacquer tree is mixed or dusted with gold to repair pieces of glass and pottery. Tea ceremony utensils repaired with gold lacquer attest to the Japanese Wabi principle, whereby simple objects made from ordinary materials are further appreciated with wear and age.

The shifuku, a drawstring pouch made from silk brocade, is a common feature of Japanese tea utensils. Designed as a storage bag to protect the teawares when not in use, these also act as an element of aesthetic interest during the tea ceremony, when they are removed from the objects and placed in front of guests. Tea bowls or caddies with particular historical significance would have had one or more shifuku made from expensive imported fabrics.