Although this recap of the Gold Chawans exhibition we had earlier this year is long overdue, it is one we could not help but publish. As the old adage goes, it’s better late than never – especially when showcasing works by Masanobu Ando. There is no limit to how often we can pull out a gold chawan and fall into a trance admiring its sublime beauty.
Another reason we couldn’t resist is that this was the first exhibition our littlest NN team member, Keoli, could attend! Our son was born in late September and one of the highlights of his newborn life was this early outing to visit our gallery to let him stare in wonder at the gold vessels.
We showcased only gold chawans in a variety of shapes and glazes. They occupied a small display area near the window. If you’ve been to our space in person, you’ll know that we lucked out on the natural sunlight we get that floods through two sides that are covered with glass windows. In the Autumn light, the golden ceramics illuminated and glimmered – making each bowl even more transcendently impressive. In the afternoon, they cast shadows that brought a warm glow to the entire gallery.
The inception of our gallery years ago brought on a whole new level of exposure to tea utensils and tea bowls from the great master artisans that galvanized us to incorporate matcha into our daily lives. For us, having matcha tea is casual as we rush about our mornings – we always stop to appreciate the vessel we use while whisking, rinsing, drying, and repeating all over again the next day. Although our everyday matcha bowls at home aren’t as sophisticated as the gold chawans, I’d imagine using a gold chawan for special occasions or ceremoniously with the same type of admiration for the ritual of preparing tea.
That being said, we have learned quite a bit about tea and matcha over the years yet, the more we are surrounded by works like Ando-san’s gold chawans, the more we realize we’ve only scratched the surface. When handling the bowls and the accompanying tomobako boxes they come in and viewing the capsule collection together as it was at the exhibition, the nuanced function of each bowl becomes quite clear. It is incredible how a shift in the shape of the lip or foot can make the piece more suitable for certain styles of tea or situations. For example, some chawans are made narrower with higher walls to be used in winter so heat can be contained in the vessel. While other chawans with flared openings are made to be used in hotter months for tea to cool off to an ideal drinking temperature.
Thank you to everyone who attended the exhibition! To see specialty pieces like this in one place is rare. If you were not able to see them in person, the collection is available here.
Special thanks to Masanobu Ando and his team. To Dani Sujin Lee, Vicky Wong and Aya Nihei for their contributions.