Ido ware was a cheap earthenware with a natural ash glaze made in Korea in the 15th century and used widely by commoners as rice bowls. After Ido ware appeared in Japan, tea masters began to use the larger Ido rice bowls as tea bowls, finding in their rough simplicity a particularly suitable to Zen expression of wabi-sabi (ä¾˜å¯‚).
Some observations on tea bowls and Ido ware from Sanjiro Tanaka, a highly-respected contemporary Japanese ceramic artist.
Evaluating a tea bowl:
When looking at a tea bowl, the most important thing is how the rim was made. By looking at the rim, the general technical quality can be determined. Depending on the shape, the rim changes. The softness of the rim, how it feels–all of this makes the rim the most important point to watch. Also the incision on the foot rim is important. The height of the bowl and the diameter of the body and its relation to the height and width of the foot rim are factors. This balance is something I have not yet accomplished. However, when judging whether something is good and looking at it yourself, the foot rim is an extremely important element to take into consideration. The incision in the foot rim indicates age, technique, and character. In other words, like a man’s sexual organ, it is the most important point and cannot be ignored when looking at the tea bowl.
On Ido tea bowls:
Ido tea bowls are foremost healthy looking and bright. There’s also a kind of melancholy to them and they stand upright like warriors. The clay is rough and has a depth to it, and when holding one in your hands, it has a special feel to it. Certainly it is a tea bowl for a man of high position. …
The aesthetics of this tea bowl are completely in a class of its own. Even after 400 years, no one disagrees that this is the “king” in the world of tea ceremony.The old Korean tea bowls have many stunning surprises. First of all, the beauty of their shape, the choice of clay, the way the clay is made, and why a certain glaze is used on a certain clay. … This was the highest level of tea bowl making. Moreover, tea ceremony ware was among the highest prizes given by the leaders Nobunaga and Hideyoshi and so the highest artistic levels were demanded. Like swords, land, and status, the Korean tea bowls were an important part of the social order in the Momoyama Period.
Tea and zen:
I am especially interested in the Sengoku (Warring States) Period. The warriors during the Sengoku Period were always ready for a battle and in this setting, they sought serenity and elegance, drinking a cup of tea before going to battle. “Here is where we throw our lives away,” they said when driven into a corner.