vintage gaiwans & the intimacy of objects

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Those of us who love tea tend also to have a deep affection for the tools we use in the preparation, presentation, storage and sharing of tea. Just as we invite valued friends to our tea table, we also invite the special objects with which we have developed an intimate relationship--our tea kettles, gaiwans, yixing teapots cups, tongs, picks, tea caddies, and even tea "critters" that enliven our tea trays.  Some of us are also inspired to find objects that have nothing to do with tea and re-purpose them to have everything to do with tea.

Throughout history, eminent tea masters have had something to say about the values that are meant to be expressed by the selection or creation of their teaware.  And if we go far enough back, to the origins of the discovery of tea, we begin to understand the earliest perspectives on nature and life and the corresponding philosophies that inform the relationship between the tea master and his or her teaware.

Vintage Gaiwan - 1913

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Teaware has been as much a topic of discussion as tea, and more so, is said to influence the quality of the tea experience. Lu Yu, who in the eighth century wrote the first treatise on tea, Cha Ching, included a meticulous etiquette for using teaware; and eight centuries later, Japan's famed tea master, Rikyu, expressed his endearment to the wabi style of teaware with its underlying philosophy of simplicity and minimalism which he so respected and to which he paid homage in his practice of tea.  

Through the objects of teaware and the relationships held between the teaware and the tea masters,  the values and mores of the times were embraced, handled and poured. As such, teaware reflects the philosophy of the age and region in which it is being used and appreciated.

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The ephemeral nature of a tea ceremony or even the simple sharing of tea between friends, is heightened by the intimacy we have with our guests as well as with the objects of the tea service. What elevates the event includes not only the disposition and intentions of the tea host and guests, but also and equally so, the character or "nature", if you will, of the objects used to make and serve the tea. We love the way a teapot pours water, the way a kettle hums at different stages of heating, the taste of tea from a particular cup, or the snug, effortless feel of a serving vessel embraced by the hand. These objects comfort us, make us smile, and whether we admit it or not, we befriend them, and, as with good friends, would miss them if they were absent.


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Text from "Teaware Treands And An Intimacy With Objects" by Jennifer Sauer 2010


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