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Handmade Culture

Handmade Culture: Raku Potters, Patrons, and Tea Practitioners in Japan

Morgan Pitelka
Copyright Date: 2005
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  • Book Info
    Handmade Culture
    Book Description:

    Handmade Culture is the first comprehensive and cohesive study in any language to examine Raku, one of Japan’s most famous arts and a pottery technique practiced around the world. More than a history of ceramics, this innovative work considers four centuries of cultural invention and reinvention during times of both political stasis and socioeconomic upheaval. It combines scholarly erudition with an accessible story through its lively and lucid prose and its generous illustrations. The author’s own experiences as the son of a professional potter and a historian inform his unique interdisciplinary approach, manifested particularly in his sensitivity to both technical ceramic issues and theoretical historical concerns. Handmade Culture makes ample use of archaeological evidence, heirloom ceramics, tea diaries, letters, woodblock prints, and gazetteers and other publications to narrate the compelling history of Raku, a fresh approach that sheds light not only on an important traditional art from Japan, but on the study of cultural history itself.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6274-9
    Subjects: History, Art & Art History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. note to readers
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    In 1997 the fifteenth-generation head of the Raku house organized a traveling international exhibition devoted to the history of his family’s ceramics, titled “Raku: A Dynasty of Japanese Ceramists.” The displayed pots, mostly consisting of the roughly shaped, simply glazed tea bowls that characterize the tradition, were dramatically lit to highlight contrasts in texture and slight variations in form. Each generation of the Raku house was represented, with particular focus on works attributed to the founder, Chōjirō(active late 1500s), and pieces by the organizer, Raku Kichizaemon XV (1949–). A video was playing at the entrance, showing Kichizaemon, dressed (uncharacteristically)...

  6. chapter one The Global and the Local in the Origins of the Raku Technique
    (pp. 13-40)

    Discussion of Raku ceramics inevitably begins with Chōjirō, the putative inventor of the Raku ceramic technique and the first generation of the lineage. As is often the case with the apotheosized founders of traditions, few details are known about this inhabitant of late medieval Japan. Most sources are either unreliable or were written long after his death. Ceramics attributed to his hand abound but defy categorization in their variety and utter dissimilarity. Despite these obvious signs of rupture, Chōjirō has anchored the Raku lineage as both technical and familial forefather for centuries, credited in the orthodox narrative with creating a...

  7. chapter two Anomie and Innovation in Kyoto: Ceramic Professionals, Amateurs, and Consumers
    (pp. 41-68)

    The first half of the seventeenth century was a bittersweet period for Kyoto elites, a diaphanous moment of anomie amidst a growing storm of regulation. After a century of conflict that greatly disrupted the lives of city residents, Kyoto’s landscape had been successfully rebuilt by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537–1598). Markets were thriving and the population was increasing, but the city was no longer the center of politics. After 1600 the Tokugawa house extended its rule of the eastern domains to the entire archipelago, and established a warrior bureaucracy five hundred kilometers away in Edo.¹ Resentment and disapproval were productively transformed...

  8. chapter three Inventing Early Modern Identity: The Birth of the Raku House
    (pp. 69-88)

    The cultural renaissance in Kyoto, fueled by the discontent of local elites whose political influence was severely curtailed when the center of political activity relocated to Edo, faded over the second half of the seventeenth century. Nostalgia proved to be a sustaining cultural force for only so long. When the fourth shogun, Tokugawa Ietsuna, took office in 1651, it was clear that the rule of the new military government was firmly entrenched. Even as the hopes of the aristocracy dwindled, however, the growth and reconstruction of the city itself continued, so that by midcentury Kyoto was again host to a...

  9. Color plates
    (pp. None)
  10. chapter four Institutionalization of the Iemoto Gaze Tea, Raku, and the Iemoto System
    (pp. 89-110)

    A hierarchical and familial system of social organization came to dominate many of the arts practiced throughout the Japanese archipelago in the eighteenth century. Tea schools, painting ateliers, performing-arts troupes, and numerous other associations adopted this mode of organization, known in the scholarly literature as theiemotosystem. The term literally means “origin of the household” but is often translated as “family head.” In this system, the patriarch of the organization—theiemoto—instituted new standards for training, accreditation, membership, practice, and even aesthetic taste. He defined the terms of practice for all members of the school. The claim of...

  11. chapter five Reproduction and Appropriation in the Nationwide Dispersal of the Raku Technique
    (pp. 111-132)

    By the early eighteenth century, the close patronage of the three Sen schools had brought the Raku workshop a new level of economic security and social standing. As the population of Sen school tea practitioners gradually increased, demand for Raku ceramics must have grown as well. However, Raku ceramics were by definition made on a small scale, and the Raku workshop did not expand to take oniemotoorganizational structures. The supply of Raku ceramics could not have met demand. By the end of the century, local kilns across Japan had begun producing low-temperature, lead-glazed ceramics in the style of...

  12. chapter six Inventing Modern Identity: The Collapse of Warrior Patronage, the Rise of Individualism and Nationalism
    (pp. 133-160)

    Members of the warrior status group¹ had been patrons of tea in Japan since its evolution in the fifteenth century into a ritualized practice combining performative beverage consumption and art connoisseurship.² Sixteenth-century warrior leaders such as Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi raised the profile of tea by employing influential tea masters, sponsoring large tea gatherings, and adopting tea practice as an essential political and social tool. The Tokugawa regime continued this policy after 1600, employing tea masters under different shoguns and making tea a fundamental practice of the bureaucratic warrior elite.³ Some of the most zealous warrior tea practitioners emerged...

  13. Epilogue: Authenticity and Connoisseurship
    (pp. 161-166)

    On March 8 of 1944, Seinyū, the thirteenth-generation head of the Raku workshop and the most prolific author of Raku-related texts in the history of the tradition, died of a sudden illness.¹ His eldest son, a graduate of the sculpture department of the Tokyo Academy of Art (now known as Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music), was fighting abroad in the Japanese Imperial Army and would not return home until after the end of the war in the winter of 1945.² For a year and a half, the Raku house was without a head. Upon his return, however,...

  14. notes
    (pp. 167-210)
  15. bibliography
    (pp. 211-230)
  16. index
    (pp. 231-236)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 237-242)