Crescent moon–
bent to the shape
of the cold. 


In the world of Japanese traditional ceramics there is not one form held in higher esteem than a chawan, a “mere” bowl used to serve whipped green tea.

For more than 400 years this celebrated clay form has challenged potters to create a perfect vessel of segmented harmony to “simply” enjoy a cup of tea. Yet there is much more than meets the eye when we begin to look at chawan and the subtle nuances they embody, the spirit they reveal, and the so-called “hand-held universe” as they are poetically referred to.

The masterpieces from Japan were made in the Momoyama and Edo periods (1573-1867) and again in a Momoyama-style revival of sorts beginning in the 1930s. 

What are the factors that define a worthy chawan? This surely is a question open to debate, yet most will agree upon this: It has to be a well-balanced, pleasantly-weighted form that brings together all aspects of composition from the way the lip is angled, to the curves of the body and how that will influence the inner “pool,” all the way down to the underside where the kodai-foot is carved. 

Now this may all sound very easy, yet many potters have told me making a good chawan is the hardest thing in the world for them. Why? It’s the giving birth to the essence of materials and hopefully allowing technique to be forgotten, so that forming becomes like breathing, while spirit shines; only then will a chawan come to life.