Ceramic Arts Students Study Japanese Tea Bowls at the Freer Gallery of Art

A student studies a tea bowl

Students from the ceramic arts program study Japanese tea bowls found in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Hood College Ceramic Arts Students

Graduation Year

2018

Program

  • Art & Archaeology, Studio Art Concentration (B.A.)
  • Ceramic Arts (Certificate)
  • Ceramic Arts (M.A.)
  • Ceramic Arts (MFA)
  • Art & Archaeology, Art History Concentration (B.A.)

Department

  • Art & Archaeology

On a brisk fall morning in October, students from the ceramic arts program climbed into school vans and took a ride down I-270 to the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the home of the Smithsonian Institution’s premiere Asian art collection. Here collection manager Brian Adams took the students on a curated tour through the museum’s storage to view Japanese tea bowls, many of which are hundreds of years old. The tea bowl is the central utensil used in the Japanese tea ceremony, an important tradition of Japanese culture that brought about the development of a unique set of aesthetic principles that continue to have influence in modern times.

Following special instructions from the collections manager, students were able to physically handle and study tea bowls of their choosing. Kristin Muller, a ceramics instructor at Hood College who has an expertise knowledge about the history and aesthetics of Japanese tea bowls, accompanied the students. As the class handled different objects, Muller spoke about the evolution and meaning behind the aesthetic principles that developed in Japan through the tea ceremony.

One of these principles is that of Wabi Sabi, the beauty found in imperfection. The tea bowl shows the principle of Wabi Sabi through the irregularity, roughness, and modesty of its natural form. Some have said that the beauty of Wabi Sabi found in such objects can bring about a feeling of transcendence within the beholder of the tea bowl. That day the students were the beholders of these modest yet powerful objects that dare you to see beyond the physical. Did they experience that feeling of transcendence that these tea bowls can evoke? You will have to take a trip to the museum to find out for yourself!