瑞雲 Auspicious Clouds
This chawan was fired in the kilns of one of Kyoto's best known raku-yaki potters, Sasaki Shoraku III (1944-). The Shoraku line began when the grandfather of the current potter established a kiln near the famous Kiyomizu temple, nestled at the foot of the eastern mountains in Kyoto. In 1945, the kiln was moved to Kameoka near the Yada shrine where it remains today. Raku teabowls are made by hand, without the use of a potter's wheel. In the process of shaping the bowls, potters handle the tea bowls in much the same manner that users will hold them as they drink from them. In this manner, a connection is formed between the creator of the tea bowl and the participants in the tea ceremony. For this and other reasons, Raku bowls (and especially those made by the Shoraku line of potters) are a favorite of tea practitioners across Japan.
There is a famous saying in the world of Tea that says: "Ichi- Raku" (1st Raku ware), "Ni-Hagi" (2nd Hagi ware), San- Karatsu" (3rd Karatsu ware). This ranking states the immeasurable importance of this type of pottery in the history of Japan, and the ceramic culture of the globe.
"Raku" means 'comfort', 'ease', and 'enjoyment'. It was taken from the palace named "Jurakudai' ordered to be built by the great shogun War-lord Hideyoshi, and administered in its construction by Sen no Rikyu. A roof tile maker that was on site named Chojiro was commissioned by Rikyu to make tea bowls out of the clay used for the tiles. These bowls were not thrown on the wheel, they were sculpted by hand. They were to be the first tea bowls to be stamped with the seal of the maker. Hideyoshi presented the seal to Choijro's son and for ever linked the family named Raku to the great palace. Before the presentation of that seal, Chojiro's bowls and others like it were called "Ima-yaki" (contemporary wares) or "Juraku-yaki" (wares of the palace). Thus began the family lineage that has extended for 15 generations to the present day. 'Raku' is the Sir name of the family.
The clay that is used is a low fired type that is mined from the river bed, sifted and wedged into huge piles that reach the roof of a vast chamber in a family owned cave. There are three such caverns, each filled from floor to ceiling with clay. When A son comes of age, and starts taking on responsibilities, he fills one of the great chambers with clay for his future grandson. He will use clay made and stored for him by his grandfather. Meanwhile the clay sits in this mouldy dark space being worked over by bacteria to make it rich and 'fat'; ( 'fat' clay has more moisture and is easier to work with). The clay spends decades being enriched by this slow process. Since each bowl is made by hand, it 'fits' the palm and fingers perfectly. Red Raku bowls were the first to be made, but Sen no Rikyu favoured dark black ones. When the bowl in the kiln has reached its best temperature, it is taken out and left to cool in the air. Some bowls are shoved into large vessels with tight fitting lids that are filled with saw dust or straw so that the bowl's glaze will trap the carbon created by the heat. As the art form developed, caramel glazes and white glazes enrobed the pieces.
Of all of the different ceramics that the Japanese have created, Raku holds court over all. It bares the distinction of being the quintessential type of pottery known throughout the world as the hallmark of Tea culture, and of Japanese taste and quiet refinement. To have tea made in this bowl is very special. When one drinks from it, they are holding in their hands the spirit and beauty of an entire people and their history.