Shoraku Sasaki III Raku Set: Shimadai Chawan

Just in time for the new year!

Potter: Sasaki Shoraku, 3rd Generation

Approximate size (Large): W6.6″ by H2.8″ or 16.7 by 7.1cm

Available now is a high class pair of Shimadai aka-Raku chawan by one of the most famous Raku yaki potters in Kyoto, third generation potter Sasaki Shoraku (1944-). Shimadai chawan (small for the man and the larger chawan for woman respectively), are highly auspicious in the Japanese Culture. They are used mainly for special events like New Year’s day or significant occasions. We’re nearing the end of the year. The pair in this case come with exquisite modelling work and then were fired multiple times adding various effects each subsequent firing for highly impressive glaze effects and were giving a gold and silverleaf finish on the interior.

A tradition dating from the mid-16th century, Raku tea bowls are made by hand, without the use of a potter’s wheel; giving them a distinctly human feel. In the process of shaping the bowls, potters handle the tea bowls in much the same manner that users will hold them as they drink from them. In this way, we can imagine a connection is formed between the creator of the tea bowl and the participants in the tea ceremony. For this and other reasons stemming from historical circumstances, Raku bowls are considered a favorite of tea practitioners across Japan.

Having seen a number of of Shimadai sets, none had the exquisite maku-gusuri, or curtain glaze that these chawan have. Here maku-gusuri flows in a bright translucent white over the traditional red infused with fu. This technique requires great skill because the glazes used in Raku flow quickly and one needs to have near perfect control of the process steps in order to create works with maku-gusuri consistently.

Maku-gusuri (curtain glaze)

Maku-gusuri (curtain glaze), is applied after the first glazing, making it appear like there is a “curtain” over the bowl’s initial glaze. The bowl is glazed, then another glaze is applied over it, and finally, the bowl is put into a kiln where the firing makes the top glaze melt, creating a curtain like shape over the initial glaze. The technique creating a waved pattern of dripped-down glaze takes advantage of the properties of different fusing points of multiple traditional glazes. Glaze for Raku yaki flows quickly and easily, so it is not easy to control where it flows.

The areas of smoky black, which are hidden by the coating of white glaze, are known as ‘fu’, and are seen on traditional aka-Raku. Fu is a colour change which occurs when fired surrounded by binchotan charcoal produced from Japanese Ubame oak. In other words, it is the burn mark created by binchotan. The surface of aka-Raku is like canvas fabric and the unique black designs of binchotan appear during firing in the kiln. Superb fu depends on the quality of binchotan charcoal and the skill of the craftsman to control the kiln’s fire.

Maku-gusuri (curtain glaze), is applied after the initial glaze, making it appear like there is a “curtain” over the bowl’s initial glaze. First, the bowl is glazed, then another glaze is applied over it, and finally, the bowl is put into a kiln where the firing makes the top glaze melt, creating a curtain like shape over the initial glaze. It was invented by sandai or the 3rd generation Raku (Kichizaemon), family descendant, Donyu.

Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto

The Shoraku kiln has been producing Raku wares for three generations and its bowls are widely used by practitioners of the tea ceremony across Japan. The founder of the Shoraku lineage established a kiln near the famous Kiyomizu temple in Eastern Kyoto. The kiln was moved to Kame-oka, near the Yada shrine in Kyoto in 1945, as it is common to seek the patronage of a religious place in the Raku tradition. It is then that the head priest of the Yada shrine gave Shoraku his name. The current Shoraku inherited that name from his father in 1962.

The Shoraku kiln was founded in 1905, by a nishiki-e (a type of woodblock print), painter from Kyoto named Kichinosuke Sasaki. The Kiyomizu Temple is part of the Daitokuji Temple group and played an important part in the success of this kiln. This was largely due to the support and guidance of Gotō Zuigan, who was a Buddhist monk and Rinzai Zen Master and the chief abbot of the temple group (Myōshin-ji and the Daitoku-ji temples), at this point in time. The monk who he succeeded was former head master Oda Sesshou and together they helped Kichinosuke Sasaki. The kiln became the new official kiln of the temple complex and worked to revive the former pottery that was made on temple grounds years earlier, which was called Murasakino yaki. Work was discontinued and seized activity completely in 1818. The pottery was named after the Murasakino Temple that originally housed the kiln. Later Kichinosuke Sasaki was bestowed the title of ‘Narumo-ken’ for the part he and the kiln played to the restoration of the temple group and revival of their lost pottery.

Both chawan, apart from slight wear to the gold and silver-leaf are in excellent condition. Nothing detrimental. They come packed in a large tomobako that fits both bowls together comfortably. The lid bears calligraphy by Shoraku Sasaki and his stamp of authenticity.

€400 + shipping cost