Maksabal – A Korean term for “A bowl for everything”.
There is such a rich history of ceramics in Korea. Japan gets the limelight for the Chawan and making the Chanoyu (Tea Ceremony – Way of Tea) famous but the vessels came from Korea first. Its like I’m taking a trip back in time as I further research my interests in ceramics and Martial Arts. There are many types of Sabal (bowl) but It especially resonates with me the unpretentious and natural beauty that these bowls embody.
I found a fantastic short documentary on the history of the Maksabal and an abbreviated history of how they came about. It includes how they are made and what makes them special enough for a war, The Hideyoshi Invasion (1592-1598) to erupt, sometimes called “the pottery wars” that involved this type of simple and utilitarian bowl.
One of these bowls is now designated a Japanese National Treasure – The Ido Chawan
Lee Love has become my go-to guy for his depth of knowledge on the Japanese and Korean concepts that come along with a really in depth study of the “why” of ceramics and the tea bowl in particular. He has kindly steered me in the directions I wish to study. The deeper I go the better it gets!
I truly hope to get to the Hadong region during our Korea trip later this year where the tea is grown. Enjoy the video!
Ok so this will be a short post but necessary for me to keep the ideas coming and stored away for future reference.
So in the past month I’ve learned more about ceramics and pottery through Ohi Toshio and Jay Benzel than in the past 2 years combined. Youtube and friends on Facebook are nice for ideas and can steer you in a general direction but there is no substitute for hands on watching an 11th generation master at work or working hands on with someone who has thrown over 100,000 pots in the past two decades or so.
I worked with Jay from Benzel Pottery yesterday and made a few Yunomi and some mugs. Very excited that my throwing skills are improving. I have shied away from the wheel so that I didn’t pick up any bad habits and just been doing pinched vessels and slab construction and just playing around with some ideas so that I can stay in it with the clay.
We did some basic decoration with porcelain slip and it got me thinking about Calligraphy and the pens and brushes that they use. Straight up and down with a calligraphy pen and you get a straight narrow line. Then side to side gives you a thick line. Now add in the variables of curls and motion and you get the graceful transformation of thick and thin. This is not the best example in the world but it demonstrates the point.
So I want to go and get some finger paints. ALWAYS back to the basics. Back to childhood where life was simple and direct and the true spirit of the creative desire lives without complication. Closer to the “source”. Which in my mind, means pure potential.
So one finger can go in any direction leaving a single line, thicker or thinner. Introduce another finger and you have another dynamic to deal with how far the fingers are apart. Introduce a third and a fourth or a fifth and the variables grow considerably. Now, I’m not looking for “too much”. Never, ever too much. Always “just enough” is where I want to be. As much done as needs doing and no more.
This leads into a conversation with my wife about a collection of pottery being like an album. A cohesive whole. I completely understand that and I want to focus on a few standard shapes and designs of my own so that I can repeatedly throw them and have a cohesive collection. This in addition to experimentation of course.
This is something that you can never complete. You can never truly be done. In a conversation I had with Jay last night. “Why would you want to get into something you’d never finish?” A very hard question indeed and one that warrants its own post I guess. I’ll work on that sometime 😉