Dear visitors of my website !

 

You can easily tell by my ceramic pieces shown on this site that I have a penchant for tea bowls. What started out as a curiosity has developed into a passion.

More than fifteen years ago, when I looked into a certain display case at the Asian Art Museum (Collection of East Asian Art) in Berlin, I took an instant liking to the tea bowls used in the Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu). At the beginning of my gallery tour, I had admired the bronzes made during the Shang Dynasty and some Chinese blue-and-white porcelain, feeling great respect for the artistic craftsmanship displayed.

Filled with awe, I entered the Japanese gallery. What a stark contrast! A number of crude and crooked tea bowls, apparently shaped by a dilettante, had made themselves at home in a display case, oblivious of their own ugliness! Approaching a white shino bowl, I couldn't help but notice that there were three cracks in the walls of the vessel. At first glance I thought, "This bowl needs a conservator!", and started wondering, more and more upset, why such objects were on show at all.

But then a change came over me - on a closer look my aesthetic sensibilities, stimulated by the exhibits previously viewed, were engaged by those tea bowls as they had been by bronzes and porcelain. What I had dismissed as amateurish before, had a strong impact on my feelings now. A few moments later, I was absolutely fascinated. What was the secret behind this phenomenon? That was what I wanted to find out. So I set out on my journey into the world of ceramics, which is still going on.

Starting from absolute scratch, I had no clue how to do it right. After many years of making tea bowls, all my efforts seemed to have been in vain, but I had learned to persevere. I had also come to realize that I needed not only technical skills but also an intellectual and aesthetical approach to achieve my goal. By studying the history of ceramics, the history of Eastern Philosophy, ZEN in particular, as well as the history and principles of the Japanese tea ceremony, I was finally able to make progress. So the next logical thing to do was to walk "the way of tea" (chanoyu) myself.

Realizing that the very wish for good results is detrimental to achieving them, I abandoned my ambition to create the perfect bowl. As student of the Japanese tea ceremony, determined to act without calculation, I seemed to distance myself from my previous goals, but I did in fact come close to them by limiting the scope of my ceramic production to the ceramics for the wabi-cha, which appear simple, immature, and well, kind of crooked. With the most suitable type of ceramics found, I started focussing on the raku technique, which was invented in the 16th century to suit the wabi sabi aesthetic demanded by Sen o Rikyu for the tea ceremony.

An idea, however, cannot serve as a model for creating ceramics nor can a technique produce results that are unique, self-explanatory, and thus "alive". As I also struggled to internalize the fact that it is acceptable for any original type of Japanese ceramics to seem accidental, I spent many years experimenting and gaining experience. I think today that in all those years, until a time about two years ago, I had completely forgotten about what I had initially planned to emulate. Then I managed to create my first successful pieces.

With their shapes and glazes in complete harmony, my bowls "came alive". I guess that at this point I had stopped thinking in terms of goals and success, because when making pottery, I preferred trying to assist a bowl in coming alive to getting in the way of its evolution.

I have been handsomely rewarded for my assistance - sometimes with the soft sound of a tea bowl being struck by a tea whisk, sometimes with the gentle smile of a guest who considers one of my bowls a delight to hold. Knowing that a picture can only indicate whether a tea bowl is suitable for wabi-cha, I am raising the curtain on my ceramic pieces all the same.

I hope you will take an interest in what the images suggest. Thank you very much for visiting my website. Enjoy my ceramics!

Sincerely,
Stephan Dunsbach

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