Japanese tea bowls are highly valued for their handmade appearance. The more comfortable and warm a finished tea bowl looks, the more beautiful it is considered. You can embellish a tea bowl with a simple stamp, fingerprints, or a signature. Some artists scratch their initials into the bottom of their pots so that the tea leaves will catch in the signature.
Tea Bowls need to be a lot bigger than teacups. You should know the shrinkage rate of the clay you are using, and make your tea bowl bigger accordingly.
The Japanese have used many methods to make tea bowls. Here are three of my favorites:
A Pinch Pot is the simplest way to make a tea bowl. Make sure you start with more clay than normal, and work towards your desired shape. If you have never made a pinch pot before, you can read my article “How to Make a Pinch Pot .”
You can flare out the edges, let them curl in, or make them straight, depending on what shape of bowl you like.
When you have made the pinch pot, take a damp sponge and smooth the lips and sides of the pot. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it should be comfortable and smooth on the lips of the person using it.
You can also form your pot by putting your clay on a banding wheel, pressing your thumb into the middle, and turning the pot with the wheel as you pinch the sides. The bottom of this pot will be flatter than that of a normal pinch pot. Allow it to become firm before you remove it from the banding wheel to attach the foot.
Elbow-forming is not a popular pot-forming method. As far as I know, potters don’t use it anymore in Japan. Instead of starting with a sphere of clay, like the above methods, you will need to start your pot by making a thick pancake out of your clay. Your pancake can be about a half-inch thick, and four inches or so in diameter. The size can very depending on how big you want your bowl.
Form a point with your left elbow by touching your shoulder. With your right hand, press the pancake onto your elbow, and use your fingers to push the sides around your elbow. When you are finished, smooth the lip and the bowl with a damp rag. You can continue to shape it if you want.
Finishing your pot
Next, set your pinch pot aside to firm up for a few minutes. If you have a kiln, you can set it near the kiln for a minute or two. You want it to be able to hold its shape without slumping or collapsing.
Meanwhile, roll a snake about the thickness of a pencil. This will be the foot of your pinch pot. If you want a traditional looking pot, put a quarter on the table and wrap your snake around the outside edge. This will help you achieve a good size for the foot. Smooth the ends of the snake together.
When the pinch pot is sturdy enough to hold its shape, hold it upside-down with your left hand and use your dominate hand to position the ring on the bottom of the pot. You can trace the ring with a wooden pencil, so you will know where to score and slip.
Score around the bottom of your foot, and around the bottom of the pot. Apply slip, vinegar, or magic-water to the score marks, and then put the two pieces together. Use a smoothing tool or a popsicle stick to smooth the cracks between the foot and the pot so that they look like one piece of clay.
If your foot is still soft, let your tea bowl dry upside down, and then smooth or sand the lip again before you fire it.
Glazing suggestion: Tomoku is a beautiful glaze for Japanese tea bowls. If you let the glaze pool for a while in the bottom of the pot, you will achieve beautiful gold specks.
Most children can learn these methods easily. My class of students aged 7+ did very well on this project. We used the pinch pot method and it took us about half an hour.
More Content from this User:
How to Make A Pinch Pot