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Teabowls and Sake Cups: A Kindred Spirit
May 5 - May 31, 2012



Having spent 8 plus years living in Japan, the experience fundamentally and profoundly changed not only my work, but my outlook/view on life, and this is further reinforced with my continued work in my studio in Seattle WA, as well as my yearly trips back to Japan to recharge and absorb.

While in Japan I was making primarily works for the table and as such I became keenly aware of the interaction between serving piece and the food that it contained. Among the primary concerns of coupling food and the piece in which it is served upon is color, and after a number of years working there my color palette gradually came to focus on the extremes of the color scale, black and white. As well, when venturing into Tokyo from my countryside studio, I often found myself in a wonderful calligraphy museum located in Ueno Park, where I would sit in silence looking at the work as well as taking respite from the cacophony of Tokyo outside. These experiences would have a strong influence of my work which continues today as I find myself working in clays of black and white, utilizing white slip as surface decoration, and finally choosing a color palette of glazes that by themselves tend to be black and white. However when fired in a variety of atmospheres and temperature ranges, working the edges of their respective firing ranges, a variety of subtle colors can be coaxed from these few base glaze formulas.

A portion of the work presented here, while small in scale and focused for the most part on the vessel and it's abstraction, is an attempt to add a somewhat sculptural and intimate take to vessel forms be it covered containers or more utilitarian pieces for drinkThe carved porcelain pieces are worked in a variety of stages of moisture content, with breaking/fissuring/cracking as well as cutting before carving out the body of the piece, and these are left unglazed for the most part. The carved boxes with their black lids originated with a conversation that I had with a friend in which she expressed her desire to have a box where people could write down their hurts or perceived injustices against them then close the box up and throw it in the river, thus achieving a psychological cleansing which would enable people to move on rather than continue to suffer internally and carry negative emotions/baggage around with them. A second approach that I take is to throw tubes then cut or tear them apart before reassembling. This series originated with the tsunami and subsequent melt down of the Fukushima reactors in Japan of 2011, and it was my reaction to the destruction caused by nature at first and then exacerbated by man with the work carrying an distinct industrial feel to it with its' dark gray or black surface and their angularities.

My teaware, chawan and mizusashi, tend to give my studio work a sense of structure and grounding as when creating a chawan, there are any number of parameters which must be met such as size, the shape of the tea well, lift of the bowl e.t.c. While some of the chawan are indeed just that in the truest sense of the word, however I have given myself a degree of freedom the others which helps me to expand my vocabulary overall. There is a concept in Japan, Shu Ha Li which is to learn and obey/respect the rules, then to break them and leave them behind finally only to return again changed and hopefully enlightened. I find this a great concept when creating works for tea.

Robert Fornell

Black Iron Sake Cup


Three Guinomi