That the artist was a woman was even more exciting.
I feel that it is still quite difficult for a woman to make a name in any industry, let alone art. When a woman can produce a work that is so very detailed and technically astonishing in such a short time, it speaks of the craftsperson, not the gender of the person driving the craft. What is particularly interesting about Robineau for me is that she was able to develop such craft mastery over the course of less than five years that Tiffany & Co. were carrying her works.
Porcelain carving is not the most simple medium to work in. To jump from a painter to a carver of porcelain shows that she has a range of talent that probably still remained untouched by the time her career had ended. I have a tendency to feel that persons that have such adaptable skills in art are a form of genius, and whenever I read of one or admire their work, I cannot help but feel that the world missed out because they probably had so much more to give if only offered the proper outlets.
In consideration of this piece, I can say that flowery vases are not my personal choice when discussing aesthetic appreciation, but I would not consider dismissing it as a very important piece. It captures the pastoral ideals in the delicate face of porcelain by the well trained hands of a genius who managed to find her following despite her sex. This piece, to me, is a monument on many levels, even if it's flowered.
Tanaka Chojiro - Korean Ceramic Artist
In the 1590s, Japanese Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded Korea twice. When the army returned to Japan, they had brought with them several potters that contributed greatly to the history of Japanese ceramics.
Tanaka Chojiro is known to be the father of modern Raku ware. Raku ware is a simple style of tea bowls and dishes that are used in Japanese tea ceremonies. The forming and firing techniques of this tile maker were adopted as the most desirable by Shogun Hideyoshi's Tea Master, Sen no Rikyu for use in tea ceremonies in the 16th century. The name Tanaka was given to Chojiro by Sen no Rikyu for his contributions.
Tanaka Chojiro (1516-1592) was the son of another Korean tile maker named Ayeda, who had introduced the method of lead-based glaze and relatively low temperature firing to Chojiro. The first glazes were only of a dark brown or black color, and the pieces that can be directly attributed to Chojiro are highly valued in Japan, six of the pieces receiving their own name. These simple and heavy pieces fit in with what Rikyu saw as the perfect vessel to match his vision of the new, standardized, tea ceremony. Chojiro passed on his technique to his apprentice, Jokei, and it has since been handed down through fifteen generations.
The Raku pottery style would start with a local clay, and it would be molded entirely by hand, without use of a wheel. The piece would be a large vessel on a small base that was fired over a relatively low heat, and then taken from the fire while still red hot to halt the process. This would leave the piece not completely hardened and was a great insulator for the hot tea.
Tanaka Chojiro, for being such an important person in the history of both Korean potters, as well as Japanese culture, has surprisingly little information available about his life. It is interesting that the potter who is perhaps the most influential in all of Japanese culture has not been documented as such an honorable person would seem to deserve. Perhaps it is because of his Korean descent?
The current headship of the Raku family, Kichizaemon, continues to keep the home and studio, as well as the kiln of the Raku family as it has been for hundreds of years now. The home is still present across from the palace in Kyoto. The family still produces Raku ware for use in Japanese tea ceremonies in the same ancient technique.
To me this is a very appealing concept. I find it enchanting that the family of Chojiro, after most likely having been removed from his family in Korea, first honored before 1600 for his mastery of rustic, hand formed tea bowls in a style that was new to the Japanese culture, is still honored not only for his family, but also his life's work. This is a direct illustration of the concepts that are lost on most of today's societies, making it difficult to find present day examples of the traditions of ancient cultures. There is far too little tradition today, and centuries of work is far too important to set aside.
The only thing that has changed significantly since the time of Chojiro is the variety in the coloring of the glaze, the craftsmanship remains and will most likely be carried on for centuries more as long as capitalism and convenience remain at bay in modern-day ancient Japan.
Ancient Japanese Ceremonial Bowls
Raku ware is a style of tea bowl that is used in the Japanese tea ceremonies. It was developed in the 16th century, and made famous by Tea Master Sen no Rikyu, also commonly known as Soeki. The Tea Master was someone that was prolific in wabi or "the way of the tea." The tile maker that developed the Raku style was named Chojiro who worked closely under Sen no Rikyu, and was so beloved by him that he gave him the name of Tanaka. The Raku seal was a gift from Shogun Hideyoshi to Jokei, apprentice and adoptive son of Chojiro. Raku ware were the fist Japanese ceramics to carry a seal.
Raku starts with the clay that is used, and is defined also by the technique used, the glaze, and the firing process. The simplicity and intimacy of hand forming the tea bowls without the use of a potter's wheel brings the drinker closer to the spirit of the potter. The glaze is lead based and the bowls are fired at a low heat. When the bowls are done firing, they are taken from the kiln and either shocked in water or air dried while red hot. This is a technique that is used in tile making, it renders a porous looking end product. Since this low firing and shocking leaves the clay not fully hardened at the end of the process, it is a better insulator for the tea.
The Japanese would not just drink from the tea bowl, they would hold the bowl and appreciate the potter, the fire, the water and the air that worked together for the tea in the bowl. The Raku tea bowl tradition is steeped in the Japanese Zen Buddhist tradition, and the design is pure and simple.
The Raku style tea bowl is aesthetically simple and intimate. When you study a piece of Raku ware you immediately notice the inconsistency of the surface, it is not an even or refined looking piece, the glaze is simple and it has no decoration or pattern, and the firing process itself leaves the surface of the bowl porous in some areas, but not so in others. The appearance is not unappealing, it is just simple. The technique is laborious, and one would not think that someone would invest so much in such an unrefined looking piece, but that simple appearance is part of the overall appeal for both myself and the drinkers.
The majority of the audience for the tea ceremony were Zen Buddhists, and the way of nature and the simplicity and balance of nature are very important in that belief structure, ultimately leading to inward and outward harmony. These pieces are very important to the Japanese culture, and there were six pieces that were so appreciated that they had their own names. Most had one simple shape to them, known as Soeki nari (Soeki shape). This was the shape that was preferred by Sen no Riyku. It was a top heavy design. The bottom was a generous basin, then it squeezed slightly inward and the top rolled back out slightly to where it rolled in at the lip slightly.
Though it is not mentioned to be so anywhere that I read, I would think that since the powdered tea that they used would leave a residual pool of material that it would be not just an attractive shape that was natural to the hands of those using it, but that the rolled lip would probably help the drinker…