Raku Kichizaemon XV is the fifteenth grand master of the Raku family. He traces his line back 450 years to Chōjirō, founder of Raku, who made the original tea bowls for Sen no Rikyū, originator of Japan’s tea ceremony.
In a corner of his studio, in crumbling sacks is his raw material; clay, stored by his forefathers over 100 years ago.
Kichizaemon, in his turn, lays down clay for his descendants.
Eschewing the labels of “artist” or “potter”, Kichizaemon says he is simply a chawan’ya, a maker of tea bowls.
How’s that for a sovereign professional role-model? A clear and simple understanding of the value he adds, and the vision to plan generations into the future.
Here’s a clip from BBC Four’s excellent series, The Art of Japanese Life, describing the wabi-sabi of one of Chōjirō’s original, simple tea bowls. (I’m struggling to embed the video in any sensible, visible way, but the click-through seems to work.)
And, here’s a YouTube clip from Nippon.com in which Kichizaemon describes his work. It’s strangely compelling.
Conventional wisdom is a common language of sorts – something that helps us communicate. At the same time, it’s similar to stopping our thought processes. Everyone agrees this is the way things are; nobody questions it. And nobody peers into the depths behind those things to question them.
Raku Kichizaemon XV
Image: The Met Museum