Bowl I am interested in exploring the qualities of the tea
The tea bowl reflects nature, and becomes a vehicle for meditation.
I have done four or more Meditating Bowls over a thirty year period, each
having similar sensibilities as vessels.
Always, choosing the wood is important, but ironically, the wood has
chosen me in this series. The first Meditating Bowl I made was in
1972 from a birch root burl
to me by a quiet, unassuming individual living in the woods in the hills
of New Hampshire. That root burl had interesting features as does
the briar burl used to make this one. Root burls are strikingly odd,
particularly briar, (Erica Arborea), which comes from the Mediterranean
area. Normally the briar burl is from a shrubby plant called "heath"
and is mostly used for pipes since it has all the qualities that make for
good, fire-resistant bowls.
Pipe makers look for briar with no imperfections, and use the
interior of the burl for their craft. Imperfections are an important
aspect of the tea bowl and also in this particular Meditating
I look to the natural edge or exterior edge of the burl, attempting to
save all imperfections which become incorporated into the design. In
this case I carefully removed much of the outer bark then pressure washed
the burl to expose the beautiful dormant buds of the outer surface.
Often surprising imperfections become apparent that would normally be
discarded by the turner. When the burl was harvested it would have
been cut using a variety of tools, including a saw, an axe and
possibly some kind of mattock to pry it out of the ground.
The first cut in this act of removing the burl marred the perfection of
nature. But it also evidenced the history of human involvement with the
look for these first cut-marks and carefully guard them as they chronicle
this history. Most woodworkers would be shocked at this approach,
but these areas of imperfection are fascinating to me. The potter I
studied with when I was a young apprentice and a Zen initiate taught me
that the marks left by the hand during the making were part of the process
and were never accidental. It is important to my process, now, to
view these marks as critical to the process of making and seeing.
These things become elements to be discovered during the acts of looking,
of thinking, of meditating. Sometimes they come as surprises,
sometimes as revelations, but rarely as the nuisance they appear, at first
interior of Meditating Bowl is special for me as well since it quietly
asserts an inward view of the "outward". By this I mean that the
interior could be a view of the bottom of a footed vessel. Often
this is the kind of treatment found on the bottoms of ceramic bowls,
a kind of tooling that is purposely left, not for effect necessarily, but
as a mater of course. The interior excavating of Meditating Bowl was
done on my pattern maker's lathe using a special technique I invented that
utilizes the chainsaw as the turning tool. I'm able to shape and
texture the piece simultaneously with the process. The texture
results from the process and can be "fooled with" or simply left like the
tooling on the bottom of a pot. The inward/outward, push/pull the
interior has, is the result of careful tooling and incising with the tip
of the saw blade.