Antique Aka-Raku Chawan With Landscape & Poem

Approximate size: W3.7″ by H3.1″ or 9.5 by 8.0 cm

This aka-Raku or ‘red’ Raku chawan is a little charm. It has signs of wear which can be easily addressed with kintsugi (lacquer repair often finished with gold or silver), in the future should one so desire. As it stands it is a gem in the rough. As far as I can provide an assessment of this bowl, a safe bet I think would be late Edo period, wagering a little perhaps mid Edo. It is slightly smaller than Raku tea bowls today which is characteristic for the time and the atmosphere of this bowl feels appropriately older. The red glaze has a beautiful sheen and also features light spots of fu all around. The front side has a simplified landscape that to the careful viewer shows a pagoda in the distance, painted by brush in black and the back a poem. Its written with character and in such a way it makes me wonder just who held the brush. The bowl had seen significant use and shows variety in it’s texture and colour variation. If nothing else it is a great conversation starter if not addition to a collection.

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.

The black colour patterns made by burning charcoal in the kiln appear not only on the front side as with many ceramic bowls, but on all side surfaces. These special black colour patterns as mentioned above are found only on aka-Raku and are called “fu”. Large amounts of high quality binchotan charcoal surrounded this bowl during the first or subsequent firings. Binchotan is widely considered to be the best charcoal in the world and is prized for being exceptionally long-burning, odourless and smokeless.

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.

The chawan is in relatively good condition. Due to its age slight defects or damages have to be taken into account and viewed in the context and time of it’s manufacture. There is a chip on the rim and on the interior wall where glaze came off revealing the underlying clay and on the foot of the bowl or koudai are some spots however these are quite insignificant. Though this chawan and accessories are worth conserving as is, I think it could be used without issue as well.

Comes with an old, presumably original quality paulownia shiho-san tomobako or storage box bearing the kiln stamp and calligraphy on inside of the lid. Unfortunately I have not have had any success translating the description. Additional photos available on request.

€520 + shipping cost

The black glaze is traditionally created from crushed stones retrieved from the Kamogawa river in Kyoto (often abbreviated to Kamo river). Red glazes are mixtures of a translucent glaze over a clay body often fired multiple times to add darker areas in the red glaze called “fu”. When bowls or utensils are glazed with with red Raku glaze they are fired at approximately 800 degrees where the black glaze when fired can reach a kiln temperature of up to 1200 degrees.