Sunday, May 3, 2015

写 Utsushi, Senke Jyusshoku/Sokka and Original Copies

While I couldn't read any of the available (Japanese language only) texts that native speaking students of chanoyu have, nonetheless I have been so fortunate to have had an extremely fine aural transmission of this knowledge. That said, nonetheless, learning the words for utensils (i.e. hishaku, chashaku, etc.) during my formative years as a (hidari-kiki mid-life aged) student of chanoyu proved to be one of my greatest challenges. Mimicking gestures and trying to remember phrases that might have wide daily application seemed doable. (A sushi chef, however, admonished me that the highly formal language of the chashitsu should stay in the chashitsu, however!)

I was so overwhelmed with new words that one evening I decided to forgo learning any more names of things and to concentrate on those of my fellow tea students. For a long time I wondered why so many of the first names of the more advanced students began with "So".

Haiken was completely another matter. It took me a while to penetrate the unasked question about why the poetic names and other provenance distinctions change from week to week. For example, the same chashaku had one poetic name one week and something else the next. I understood that it had to be seasonal at least. I finally realized that we were learning the Urasenke generational oiemoto names as they related to the month of the class date and used this as the answer for the maker of the scoop. (March was always Gempaku Sotan Koji, Urasenke's 3rd Generation master.)

Some things didn't seem to change much, and I relied on them to get me through the class if my language brain was asleep. Always popular, like Coco Chanel's "little black dress", was the basic black nastsume: Rikyu's shape, black lacquer, and middle size. Likewise a repeat, was the answer to the question, "Who did the lacquer?" It was usually attributed to Sotetsu. (Later I learned it was Nakamura Sotetsu.) Likewise, the shifuku was always attributed to Yuko, who I always thought was a woman because we had several Yuko-sans in class.

Inasmuch as  for the koichademae, we only used two chaires whose shapes were observable cues (tsurukube and katatsuki, crane neck and shouldered, respectively) this was easy to remember. As for the kamamoto wa ... the choice came from a list of historic kilns: Seto, Akahada, Zeze, Tamba, etc., but I never knew which our prêt-a-porter pieces they actually were. The kireijifabric, of the shifuku usually didn't change, but it was years before I learned that one of those words meant "stripe" and another "brocade" and that fabrics were very complicated to learn because of the huge variety.

When it comes to the point of the "ceremony", the tea, again we learned classic names of favored growers and the poetic names given by our oiemoto, but was it really Kambayashi? We also never have the opportunity for side-by-side taste / smell comparisons. (Please see my article Much Ado About Matcha originally published in Kyoto Journal.) 

What did change often -- shape, ceramic style, patterns -- were the chawans. We could be sure that from summer to winter, the shapes for the usuchawans  went from wide saucers to mugs, and vice versa as the seasons warmed up again. As for those used in koicha, aside from the late-comer “Korean” one (Koraijawan, but not Ido per se), there were the always correct fraternal Raku twins: one black and one red, to which we told to select a name from Chojiro's fabled seven. No attempt was made to explane whether what we were holding resembled any of them in particular, save for the color. It was like ordering in a Chinese restaurant: one dish from Column A and one from Column B. 

As the study became progressively more "intense", we began to handle material that had additional provenance through attribution to the owner, the circumstance for which it was being used now, adding any significant apocryphal or midrashic references (e.g. My sensei gifted it to me when I received my chamei.) 

Thus, in the course of my research for a review about the excellent new English-language catalog from the Raku Museum, I explored the notion of  utsushi.

From Wikipedia:

"Utsushi () can be translated as, appropriation, emulation, inspiration, attribution, etc. However, the word Utsushi encompasses the meanings found in all the terms mentioned. An Utsushi can be a work where an artist is inspired by a traditional motif and incorporates the design in a work of art or the artist is emulating a masterpiece of the past to surpass the original subtly.

"Emulating or making an Utsushi of an existing work might be done for a variety of purposes. Appropriating the work of predecessors is one of the developmental methods in training artists across all ranges of Japanese artistic genres. Through the process of replicating the techniques and style of a noted or established master, the artist experiences firsthand the technology, material requirements, and aesthetic understanding necessary in producing an artwork of the utmost quality."

Thus It is definitely not a soulless copy or reproduction.

"Utsushi promotes a dialogue between the artist and the masters of the past, connecting past, present, and future."

"Within the way of tea, a new perspective is cast upon Utsushi especially when objects that display an acute sensibility of the original and its reinterpretation are displayed and used in the tea room. The aesthetic quality is highly valued where it brings both the newly conceived version and the reinterpreted into a sharper perspective.[2] Moreover, objects favored by succeeding masters of the various schools in the way of tea have a close connection with the notion of Utsushi. Over the history of the way of tea, certain designs and objects preferred by specific masters have been emulated where individuals can enjoy and be familiar with the object in a different manner."

I began to understand the notion of at once maintaining the lineage while expanding it first hand when, many naive years ago, I accepted an impromptu invitation of a museum customer service representative to meet a gentleman who I had just shared the elevator cabin at the Kettle Museum in Kyoto. The fellow, dressed in samue, was none other than Onishi Seiwemon, the oiemoto of the famed Kyoto iron chagama house, one of the Senke Jisshou. I accepted and again was back in the elevator which now opened one floor above at his studio / workshop. I smiled. He spoke no English but was told by the receptionist who accompanied me that I was a student of chado in Los Angeles. He smiled back and invited me to look at his worktables where I saw patterns, dies, tools and sketchbooks that were clearly well used by previous oiemotos to make chagamas. These hard-worked “relics” looked as if they could create the end result without guidance by his hand, yet he seemed to be worthy of the task. I could see in his eyes that he could likely look all the way back through his lineage and see the future, too.

I then began to look into the notion of the provenance of chadogu and the Senke Jyusshoku (sp. var. Jusshoku /Jushoku)  10 Craft Families that have served the Senke schools for generations. The Omotosenke website explains the history of cultivating an appreciation for the tradition-bound patronage of form and function in the Senke Jusshoku:

"This term 'Senke jushoku' was first used in the Taisho (1912 – 1926) period, at the time of chanoyu's renaissance, when there was a great increase in demand for utensils. This is what they were called at exhibitions of their work in department stores, and the use of the term has spread up to this day. In the world of chanoyu they are still called 'shokka'.

”Looking at the history of the word 'shokka', its use was previously not limited to the ten families. Halfway through the Edo period, in the time of the 7th generation Joshinsai and the 8th generation Sottakusai, utensils were made to the Iemoto's design by more than 10 craftsmen families. These families called 'shokka' each answer all of the requirements for utensils in their field, responding to the needs of the Iemoto and of tea lovers. ... In this we see the unique point of view and readiness of the craftsmen against the background of their long history, which is perhaps the difference between them and pure artists."

The ten current Jusshoku are EIRAKU Zengorō, HIKI Ikkan, KOMAZAWA Risai, KURODA Shōgen, NAKAGAWA Jōeki, NAKAMURA Sōtetsu, OKUMURA Kichibei, ŌNISHI Seiwemon, RAKU Kichizaemon, TSUCHIDA Yūko.

Morgan Pitelka brings forth this relationship of teamasters to dogu crafters as it applies to the Raku family tradition and its relationship with Senke through the ages in his book Handmade Culture: Raku Potters, Patrons, and Tea Practitioners in Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2005). I found this work to be a wonderful counterpoint to the exhibition catalog as he looks at the issues of patronage from a diverse number of vantages. An earlier essay may be read here.

Still diverted from my task at hand, I was attracted an exhibition “When Japan’s Tea Ceremony Artisans Meet Minpaku’s Collections” at the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka (Minpaku). A catalog was published. (Japanese only).

From the Museum’s website:

“In a totally new attempt at this Museum, it was decided to bring the Jisshoku to Minpaku to expose them to the artifacts stored here, suggest that they choose a piece that inspired them and have them create something new within their own tradition. In this way we hope to provide new perspectives on both the artifacts in our collection, showing them to be a mine of potential sources of inspiration for the creative mind, and on the implements traditionally used in the Japanese tea ceremony showing how their form and function can be developed by today's Artisans and by their successors in future generations. The exhibition has 3 themes:
  • Introducing Jisshoku, the Ten Tea Ceremony Artisans of Japan: Their Traditions, Activities and Artworks
-- Why Jisshoku at Minpaku? In this section the history of each Jisshoku family and their work will be shown, along with representative artworks from earlier generations of each family.
  • Jisshoku Inspired: What They See, Feel and Create
 -- An artwork created by each of the Jisshoku that was inspired by exploring Minpaku's collections is exhibited in this area, along with the artifacts chosen from the exhibition that stimulated the new works.
Artisans and Their Work from Around the World -- The artwork created by Jisshoku and their skills are compared to those of artisans around the world, through a comparison of activities such as beating, casting, molding, baking, painting, socketing, bending, weaving, bonding, cutting, and sewing, skills used at various stages of the creative manufacture of art and the tools used for these activities.
Matthew Larking commented in article in the Japan Times (“Ten members of the 10 craft-producing families for Senke seek exotic inspirations”) and in The Journal of Modern Craft  (“A new spirit for tea traditions: The original in modern craft tradition and contemporary oblivion. How to make original copies?) about the impulse (or not) for the current heads of the esteemed Senke Jusshoku lineages to riff off the main line and take their work to a whole new level.

“In the rarefied world of Japanese tea ceremony, innovations have often been greeted coolly. When the Japanese-American abstract sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-88) gave a tea kettle of his own making to the landscape designer and tea connoisseur Mirei Shigemori (1896-75), the recipient was baffled.

“It violates every concept of what a conventional tea kettle should be,” said Shigemori. “Noguchi doesn’t understand what ‘new’ means for tea,” he noted.

“By the mid-Edo Period (1603-1867), there were more than 10 craft families; the name is recent, dating from a 1919 exhibition in Osaka’s Mitsukoshi department store. The popularization of the name Jusshoku came with an early 20th-century tea ceremony renaissance that led to an enormous increase in the demand for tea wares.

“In the process of producing something new, though, the Jusshoku had to temper their creations to practical and aesthetic standards laid down by Rikyu. Practical concerns include the convenience and intention of the user, and aesthetic ones, the creation of objects that are seemingly in a natural state and soberly adorned and free from affectation. Neatness and cleanness of form are also prized. A certain unassuming quality must be discerned — no bold statements whereby the presence of an object is too forcefully felt.

“A case in point is the 14th-generation woodworker Komazawa Risai (b. 1930), who notes in the exhibition catalog the continuing importance of Rikyu’s ideals for contemporary tea life. Sifting through the museum collection, Komazawa took a fancy to wooden headrests and stools from Kenya and earthenware ceramics from Morocco, but the form of a woven bread container from Morocco in particular entranced him. Ignoring its vivid color combination of gold, red and green fabrics, Komazawa fashioned a hexagonal tea sweets container with decoration primarily of natural paulownia wood grain and a few engraved cloud and flower shapes.

“Thirteenth-generation lacquerer Nakamura Sotetsu (b. 1965) brought similar restraint to her contribution. Having assembled an assortment of objects such as an eight-sided table from Morocco, a ceramic from Mexico and tiles from Turkey, she settled upon two Iranian tiles with sprawling organic designs and a brightly colored pouch used by women in Guatemala. The influences of these objects percolated with her own hereditary traditions, resulting in a black, four-sided dish with a simplified geometrical design in subdued gold and gray.

“While the items from the museum’s collection are from distant lands and times, the new wares created have found in the foreign objects aesthetic similarities to local tea traditions. The basket of goods assembled by the 12th- generation scroll-mounting maker, Okumura Kichibei (b. 1934), includes a vertical bamboo calendar and a horizontal picture scroll from Indonesia because they suggested to him the formats of Japanese hanging scrolls. His contribution is a folding screen made form Mexican amate paper, a kind of mottled and textured fabric made from bark. In another project, Okumura took a liking to Indonesian banana paper and fashioned kamashiki (paper kettle pads) of 48 sheets folded into fourths, a tradition also said to have begun with Rikyu.

“Other sections in the exhibition include the historical examination of Jusshoku traditions and their comparison to other hand-made world crafts. The former is of particular interest for the background it provides to contemporary Jusshoku activities, and also the chance to view such rare items as the “Black Raku Tea Bowl” by Chojiro (d. 1589), the founder of Raku ceramics who produced designs Rikyu commissioned with the so-called roof-tile carving skills of his professional trade.

“In stark contrast to the anything-goes impulse of the contemporary art world, the tea world, it seems, is one that seeks in contemporary creation not the liberation from rules and tradition, but freedom from arbitrary and impulsive behavior.”

I am reminded of an exhibition by the Asia Society and Japan Society of New York, created in conjunction with the International Chado Culture Foundation, Kyoto, "The New Way of Tea". It featured art and architecture, including tea houses, mural paintings and tea utensils designed by contemporary East Asian, European and American artists. It was organized by the now late Masakazu Izumi, second son of Genshitsu Daisosho when the later was Sen Soshitsu XV, Hounsai, the oiemoto of Urasenke, and the director of the International Chado Culture Foundation. The website is still up for the most part with photographs of many of the objects that were on exhibition. Urasenke's  Milliemme enterprise provides an "advancement of culture" through the sale of newly designed utensils, tea furniture, and services participation in contemporary international expositions and other opportunities.

While I loved the idea of a riff on the old stuff ... I now, more than ever, prefer the classic versions, each one of them likely avant garde (or at least very garde) during their time. We begin to understand the issues of tori awase when what seems to be a disparate group of utensils begin to interact inharmoniously with each other to the detriment of their becoming a single means to an end. Change one element, and everything else must must be reconsidered. There must be an algorithm that can explain it ...

For those of us who do not have the resources to obtain utsushi chadogu, we are forced to improvise. This often honors Necessity, the Mother of Invention. During various situations she has brilliantly offered for the chashaku ... a sterling silver butter knife that's been in the family for generations as well as a plastic swizzle stick in the shape of a ski from an alpine resort. Of course, each has a great story behind it!