Looking the part
When you drink tea, looking the part in your wares, and even attire can be part of the fun. Entire cultures arising around tea in many countries all over the world demonstrate a creative string in human conciousness that seems to get strummed when drinking tea. Just in Japan alone there has been a rich array of culture emanating from tea leaves. We are familiar with the aesthetic of simplicity with a whole worldview behind it that reflects many of the ideals of buddhism and confucianism, but there were also times in Japanese history when tea was just hitting the scene and becoming all the rage with the upper class, who enjoyed very extravagant teaware that reflected a very different set of priorities.
I’m fond of Japanese art and architecture in general, though in tea I gravitate towards China and Taiwan, where I find traditionally made teas to be a magnificent show of human knowledge collected and passed down generation to generation. It’s very beautiful. When I’m in a Turkish restraunt, I’m always drawn to see how the tea is being made. When I’m in an American Diner, not so much.
But I can feel like tea culture in America bubbling up from below the cracks in the sidewalk, and I’m getting very excited to be part of that. A whole array of art and culture can arise from tea, and has from Britain to Iran, to Tibet. I’m looking forward to the failed experiments in culture that gloriously flash and fade. Mostly I’m just happy to be with creative people who find joy in the ritual of tea, as I do.
Personally I would like to spend more time working with artists, whether in the U.S. or abroad, who are experimenting with their own expressions of tea culture. If can support that work, and be a part of that, that will be very enjoyable.
A first foray has been working with Mark Mohler and curating some of the pottery pieces I like best from his work. I’m excited by his attitude about functional teaware and his willingness to explore what an American tea culture will look like, or what might be an American contribution to global culture. Currently he’s very admirably on his way to Taiwan to really learn the trade (and I’m sure will come back on fire!).
Inspired by this thread, I’ve also been talking to my friend who is getting into making clothes to start playing with the woven world of tea culture. We’ll see what lilypad arises to hop to next.
This mixture of new and old, not just attempting to adopt or mimicking another culture, is where it’s at. That’s where some living culture can be found, finding i'ts way. At this moment in time, looking the part is a look that hasn’t been codified, There is a lot of room to play, learning from the past and giving life to something fresh.