Published in Honoho Geijutsu No. 57, 1999
Yamada Kazu and Ogawa Machiko
Photo Courtesy of Honoho Geijutsu No.57, 1999
Heaven and hell. Good vs. evil. Ying and yang - the duality that we humans find ourselves trapped in and the contrast of such polars that allows us to see what is and what's not. I often appreciate my health much more after I've been sick and I enjoy the taste of food more when I have a totally empty stomach. The high is nothing without the low and life would lose its tragic beauty without death; opposites walk hand in hand.
I have in my collection two guinomi that symbolize that duality and offer to me a glimpse at something beyond myself, something that I find Hanya Shingyo (The Heart Sutra) hints at.
I enjoy using guinomi immensely, feeling the weight in my hands, the lip as it touches my mouth. After I finish enjoying the sensual pleasures of touch, I do not return the pieces to their wooden boxes like trapped animals, but place them where I can also visually enjoy them. I have numerous tea chests in my collection room where I keep my collection on display- the pieces are visual meditations so to speak. And none more so than the pair that I keep in prominent view at all times- Kazu Yamada's Black Seto guinomi and Machiko Ogawa's rounded white vessel.
Courtesy of Honoho Geijutsu No.57, 1999
These two compliment each other in color, shape, and size. The intense jet black of Yamada's cup finds a perfect match in the cloud white glaze of Ogawa's cup.
Yamada's straight edgy lines are softened by Ogawa's smooth rounded form. They also are like the two folk tale mountain peaks, Suruga Fuji and Shimoda Fuji, vying for the attention of all who gaze upon their majestic forms. Yet unlike the folk tale where the two become rivals, Yamada and Ogawa need each other, like night needs the day or wake needs sleep.
The two are slightly larger than most usual guinomi and both cover the diameter of my hand. Yamada's guinomi when filled with sake becomes a black hole lake and I can imagine the way Sen no Rikyu felt when he looked into black chawan so many centuries ago- in that blackness he most likely glimpsed himself and that love for black could have possibly cost him his life. Like the famous Black Seto chawan 'Oharagi' or 'Himatsu,' it has impressions on the base left by the potters hand around the white clay.
Yamada's cup has a swirling footring that reminds me of tree rings, and even though Yamada is still young the growth that the rings hint at shows that he will become a grand oak.
Ogawa's cup is like looking through clouds and seeing the earth below- the soft white Hagi-like glaze with a grayish-earthy brown base. It has the most fantastic stone bursting out of its base- a mini-volcano.
Both cups have interesting yet not overdone 'mountain ridge' lips, although Ogawa's lip is slightly thick. Yamada's cup is circular while Ogawa's is ovoid.
Black is a color that mystifies and absorbs while white reflects; the two are perfectly matched partners in the natural world. I had been looking for a Black Seto cup that 'spoke to me' for years and my search ended when I got Yamada's intense guinomi. To have my senses always in top gear would be an overload and that's where Ogawa's cup balances out the intensity- like I said, it's the opposites that allow me to see and feel what is- maybe someday when I can rid myself of the need for opposites I will be sitting next to Rikyu himself sipping sake from a Black Seto cup while looking through the clouds on Ogawa's cup.
by Robert Yellin
for Honoho Geijutsu No.57, 1999
For more on artist Ogawa Machiko, please visit:
Photo Tour of Ogawa's Pottery
Winner of Japan Ceramic Society Award