SPOTLIGHT: October 1, 2022

Tenmoku Tea Bowl with Leaf Motif

This month’s Collections Spotlight celebrates autumn with a ceramic piece by Japanese artist Kimura Morikazu (born 1921). This tea bowl features a leaf motif and a unique tenmoku glaze.

Tenmoku glazes, including the “oil-spot” glaze, are the result of iron-oxide crystals appearing in the glaze. The crystals create decorative effects, or speckles that resemble scattered stars. The technique is achieved by reducing the amount of oxygen in the kiln when the piece is fired.

Jian-ware, the iron-glazed stoneware that Japanese tenmoku imitates, became popular in China during the Song dynasty (960-1279). Tenmoku pottery was named for the mountain range in China where clay with a high iron content was first discovered, and the pottery was introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks who had studied in China. Tenmoku tea bowls were revered by Ashikaga shoguns in the early history of the tea ceremony.

A number of Japanese potters working in Kyoto in the early 1970s devoted their life’s work to emulating Chinese pottery forms and techniques. Kimura Morikazu and his brother Kimura Moriyasu (born 1935) were part of an extended family of Japanese potters working with tenmoku glazes. When Carl Weyerhaeuser visited their kiln in Kyoto, Morikazu was working almost exclusively in tenmoku glazes. At this time, the artist had learned to control the process so well that he could capture the imprint of a leaf in the rich black glaze. The design embodied the simple, elegant theme of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Kimura Morikazu (Japanese, b. 1921)
Tenmoku Tea Bowl with Leaf Motif, 1972
Ceramic, tenmoku glaze, 4.7 x 13.30 in.