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  CHASEKI MUGAI, "INTROSPECTIVE PLACE FOR TEA" CERAMIC WORK


Chiseki Mugai is the third in the series of ceramic works in the form of classic Japanese teahouses.
  • This is the third and last in the series of delicate hand-built works representing the constrained beauty of the traditional Japanese teahouse. It follows the general pattern of its prototypes, Chashitsu Wabi and Sukiya Mokurai. It, too, is in the form of a classic teahouse containing within it a miniature thrown teapot designed in classic Japanese elegance. It differs from the second iteration in regard to its more arched roof (similar to the first ceramic teahouse) and moodier coloration.
  • The work further evolves from my older, more whimsical works. It attempts instead to respectfully depict the elegant nature of this revered structure, embodying traditional virtues of understatement, peace, tranquility and simplicity. These attributes are described in the term "mugai" as an aesthetic that expresses both introversion and introspection as well as serenity, self-assessment, contemplation, sensuality and mystery. "Chaseki" refers generically to a place for tea, but more specifically addresses the hallowed house or room reserved exclusively for the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
  • The typical teahouse includes two sliding doors, a focal niche, tatami flooring and a fire pit. However, not all of these elements can be included by virtue of size constraints.
  • Preliminary sketch and tagboard template model serve to facilitate construction, which is begun by forming preshaped slabs of clay cut according to the design of the model. The stoneware slab segments are then used for slab construction of the work.
  • The walls of the teahouse contain small high windows on three sides. The back wall is modified by press mold with vertical bamboo-like linearity.  Incised images of serene bamboo groves embellish the two side walls. The entrance way is atypically open to allow viewers to see the interior design, including the prominent centrally-located replica of an antique Japanes teapot.
  • Substantial feet elevate the teahouse above its base. Free-standing teahouses are usually isolated on land or in water, to symbolically depict their lofty stature and reflect their cultural importance for household and community.
  • A small teapot is separately designed and constructed to replicate an antique Japanese teapot. It is composed of wheel thrown clay (for main compartment, lid and spout) and extruded clay (for handles). When the teahouse structure and coloration are completed, the teapot is permanently affixed in place inside the teahouse.
  • Construction sequence:
    • First fired to cone 04 in its bisque state.
    • Black underglaze is applied to all surfaces, except feet and front panel opening. The underglaze is rubbed off the three exterior walls and roof, but residual coloration is left in the interstices to enhance the surface textures previously imparted by press mold and incised scenes.
    • Refired to cone 5.
    • Layers of China paint are applied for subtle coloration in keeping with the solemnity of and respect for the teahouse.
    • The work is fired repeatedly to cone 018 between layers of China paint.
    • Cold finishes complete the piece.
  • Displayed at Fired Up National Juried Exhibition, Harlow Gallery, Hallowell, ME, 2015; Ninth Texas Teapot Tournament, CAMEO, Houston, TX, 2016..
  • Date: 2014.
  • Size: 11.5" x 7.0" x 7.0".
  • Available for purchase. Price: $900.

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Enlarged view

 

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Enlarged view

 

 


CREATIVE PROCESS

 

 

 

 

 

Hand-built construction almost completed and ready for first bisque firing.

  • The teahouse is hand-built of stoneware clay using slab construction techniques. Slabs of clay are cut to predesigned shapes made from tagboard templates. Elements of extruded and wheel-thrown clay forms are also added.
  • Decorative surface embellishments are made by press mold for the faux bamboo exterior of the back wall. Images of a bamboo grove are incised into the side walls.
  • Sturdy sculpted feet are permanently affixed by score and slip method to elevate the structure and reflect its cultural importance.
  •  A  miniature 3.5" placeholder wheel-thrown teapot with extruded handle is used to ensure the opening will be large enough to accommodate the finalized version of a replica of an antique Japanese teapot in the central interior of the space provided for it.
  • The work is allowed to air dry thoroughly when the construction phase is completed, in preparation for its first bisque firing to cone 04.

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   Structural construction done and beginning coloration.

  • After its first kiln firing, the interior surfaces are covered with black underglaze.
  • Black underglaze is also applied to the exterior walls and arched roof of the teahouse (except for the feet and the open-faced front wall), but it is rubbed off in order to disclose the aforementioned textured surfaces made by press mold and incising methods.

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Coloration consistent with the solemn work is undertaken with China paints.

  • Layers of China paint are applied to introduce pastel shades of coloration consistent with the austere and solemn nature of the teahouse.
  • The position of the roof, still fluid because it is not yet fixed in place, is modified. The same applies to the interior teapot. Once I am entirely satisfied in this regard, these components are permanently  affixed atop and within the teapot, respectively, by the score and slip method.
  • Additional firings to cone 018 are undertaken between layers of China paint.
  • The work is completed by the application of cold finishes.

 

 


 

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