Friday, October 26, 2012

The Raku Museum, Kyoto

The story of tile maker Chōjirō and tea master Rikyu was one of my inspirations to take up pottery. The word ‘raku’ is in the vocabulary of every potter and finally I was at the very place where it all started over 400 years ago – the Raku Museum (top left image). The home and the work shop of the Raku family are right next door just as they were in the 16th century. At the time of my visit the museum was holding a special exhibition titled ‘In praise of surfaces – Raku teabowls, iron kettles, lacquered tea caddies’ (top right image). Unfortunately photography wasn’t allowed in the museum. Their collection is awe inspiring. From the historical point of view the most interesting tea bowl in the exhibition was ‘Isarai’ by Tanaka Sōkei (1535-?). Tanaka Sōkei was the biological father of Raku Jōkei II who was adopted by Chōjirō I (d 1589). This tea bowl features the ‘Sōkei seal’ given by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, which gave Raku family its name. There was also tea bowl ‘Murasme’ by Chōjirō and ‘Kansetsu’ by Hon’ami Kōetsu (1558-1637). The tea bowl that I liked the most was by Raku Chōnyū (1714-1770). Its glazed body was light pink with black crackle, while its unglazed hip and foot were reddish black.
A couple of years ago I took a few photos of the early Raku ware in Tokyo National Museum ( Flash photography was prohibited hence the photos are a bit fuzzy. Nevertheless, they are below: left – teabowl named ‘Amadera’ by Chōjirō, middle – teabowl named ‘Suehiro’ by Jōkei, right – lion shaped incense burner by Jōkei as well.

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