Tea bowl and shifuku

DATE: 19th century (made)
PLACE: Karatsu (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Glazed stoneware painted with iron oxides

Tea drinking was quickly adopted by Japan’s aristocracy, samurai and religious classes, who appreciated its medicinal and revitalising properties. By the 16th century, the complex ritual to prepare and serve tea according to codified etiquette gave rise to the tea ceremony. Although earlier forms of the tea ceremony incorporated Chinese or Korean vessels, tea masters from the mid-16th century turned to domestically-made tea utensils, which they favoured for their imperfect, unrefined and natural forms.

This tea bowl is categorised as karatsu ware, a pottery style which originated in Japan’s western island of Kyushu. Along with Raku and Hagi, Karatsu was the pottery style most commonly used to make teawares for the tea ceremony. The glaze drippings on the bowl’s exterior would have been a desirable feature, thought to enhance the tactility of the bowl’s surface.