Sunday, November 21, 2010

The "Powdery Matsudaira" Revisited

(Click on Images to enlarge.  Use back arrow to return to post.)
I am sure that you are wondering why I would 'revisit' a chawan like the "Powdery Matsudaira".  As my subtitle, "An Adventure Toward Insight and Clarity", suggests; this blog is an adventure.  In addition, my first sentence on my introduction to this blog is, "I begin this blog knowing I have a profound lack of understanding and knowledge on the subject of Tea bowls."
In my earlier post on "Powdery Matsudaira" I wrote:
To many Tea ware artist and connoisseurs, the “Powdery” Matsudaira, like the Kizaemon, embodies the ‘essence of tea’.  From the moment it was formed on a humble wheel, to the quick dipping into slip ‘tum bung’ that left an accidental bare mark revealing the clay body - in a “tealeaf-like” pattern, to the accidental drip across that mark made when the potter lifted the bowl to keep the excess slip on the bowl, this was destined to be a great bowl.  Tiny specks of natural stone peeked through the slip at the peak of the firing.  This slip, like that on many old tum bung buncheong pieces, was more than strictly a “slip”.  It was a slip glaze fusing slightly and sealing the body.  More than likely it was also ‘single fired’, without the benefit of bisque firing.  This chawan is beautiful, capturing many moments of the forming, ‘glazing’ and firing process.  The inner and outer powers have become one in this amazing chawan.
I have been thinking about this bowl lately because I have been doing some dipped slip buncheong tea cups and tea bowls for my own work.  This is not something new for me but rather something I return to from time to time just to mix things up a little and try to keep myself fresh.
One of the things that has always bothered me about the "Powdery Matsudaira" is it has never really had the nuance characteristics of a slip.  That is why in my original post I said it was a "slip glaze".  The title of the piece uses the word "powdery" suggesting a slip was used.  The word 'bun' in 'buncheong' essentually means 'powder'.  But in creating buncheong slip ware, usually a clear glaze is placed over the slip causing the dark exposed clay to have a shine.   In nearly every book or writing on the "Powdery Matsudaira", it is categorized as a slip glazed or buncheong bowl.  Every Korean tea bowl artist who copies it uses slip with a clear glaze over it.  I wrote that it was a "slip glaze" because it didn't have the same 'feel' as other buncheong pieces that have clear glazes over them.
Recently, I was staying with our friend, the potter Park Jong Il, and his family in the mountains outside of Gyeongju, Korea.  One evening, we were just talking about pottery when I asked him if he thought the "Powdery Matsudaira" used a slip glaze?  It is a question that has bothered me for sometime.  His immediate reply was, "No, just a slip".  I responded,  "If it was just a slip why is there no shine on the dark portion of the bowl and why does it look more like a glaze?"  "Let's see."  Jong Il said.  With that statement he went to his books and pulled out a very large book in Japanese on tea bowls.  It was a remarkable book filled with amazing work and I hope to someday obtain a copy.  After searching for a few moments he exclaimed, "You're right!  It is a glaze."  Now I was at his side looking at a grouping of very large photos of the "Powdery Matsudaira" showing this bowl in clear detail like I had never seen it before.  It showed the bowl in many positions, foot, lip the bare pattern, everything.  But I was wrong, it was not a "slip glaze" it was glazed with a white porcelain glaze "paekcha" that was used like one would apply a slip!  Amazing!
What we read, clearly effects what we see.  What we think we know, based on years of experience and reading, can still perpetuate misinformation as readily as it can provide the truth.
I apologize for my earlier post on the "Powdery Matsudaira" suggesting that a 'slip glaze' was used.  But I am happy to provide this clarification as we move toward even more insight and clarity.
PS: I'm sorry I do not have an image of the "Powdery Matsudaira" from that large Japanese book nor would I have permission to post it if I did.  I do have permission to post the above photo and have inserted it twice as large as before.  Click on it to see the enlarged view and use the 'back' arrow to return to this blog.  Thanks for following us.

Added to the post:  12/5/2011
Because of the questions about this bowl, I decided to use Photoshop in an attempt to get a little closer to the images I saw in the Japanese book.  The first image is the traditional image found in many publications.  It appears 'yellowed' by age.  The second image, altered by photoshop by removing some of the 'yellow', is much closer to the images I saw in the book mentioned above.  One may argue that the 'original' image should not be altered.  From seeing the new book, that 'original' image doesn't reflect the true nature of this piece.  In any case this is just a blog, not my doctorial dissertation on this bowl.  I'm simply attempting to present a clear and honest portrayal of the bowl as I now know it. 

      The original commonly used photo of The "Powdery Matsudaira".  

Compare the above photo to the next photo.

 The whiter image of the "Powdery Matsudaira" 

The above image is much closer to the images I saw in the teabowl book.

Comparing the color change I made

My apologies if this attempt at clarification is beginning to add confusion.
Click here to go to the next post.

Because I had a computer glitz, the following was added 11/24/2011
I am perplexed.  I have received a couple of comments and can't return a comment myself.  For some reason neither of my computers will allow me to comment on my own blogs.  So, I'll post a comment here until that can be corrected.  
Thanks for your comments.
It was impossible to mistake either the photos or the text found in this Japanese chawan book.  I had never before seen photos of the "Powdery Matsudaira" or any of the other tea bowls like the ones in this book.  Each photo was up close and included several photos of every chawan taken in good light with great detail.  In addition the text clearly states, in Japanese translated by Jong Il, that this bowl we know as the  "Powdery Matsudaira" was glazed with a Korean porcelain glaze.  It was neither a slip glaze, as I wrote originally, nor was it covered with a slip in any way.  It was simply glazed with a porcelain glaze.  This is particularly interesting to me because this bowl has been one of the standards for the buncheong process of dipping one's bowl in slip.  We had assumed that slip was used.  Books, articles and blog posts like my earlier one perpetuate that myth.  For my part, I'm sorry.  It didn't look right from the one photo I had.  As much as I want that bowl to be dipped into slip, as much as nearly everyone thought it had been dipped into slip, as much as it looks like old slip with the chipping on the lip and foot in the above photo, it is not slip.  If I'm able to obtain my own copy of that book I'll ask for permission to post some of the better photos here.  In the meantime, the additional highly detailed photos that I saw and text in that book answered my questions.  I hope I have answered yours.