Tuesday, June 23, 2015

World of Tea Series: Contemporary Aesthetics & Traditional Tea Culture

Northwest Tea Festival hosts the World of Tea Series one Saturday of each month. This series offers unique tea tastings and workshops presented by specialists in the industry.

On June 13th, Christopher Ezzell (Architect and Assistant Teacher with East West Chanoyu Center) and Christopher Shaw (Engineer and Artist with Northwest Tea Collective) presented Contemporary Aesthetics & Traditional Tea Culture.

The presentation opened with Christopher Ezzell who shared with us his inspiration from and appreciation of the simplicity and thoughtful aesthetic of the Japanese tea room and how he has incorporated this into his own work.  

He shared photos of his redesign of a dark and cluttered sculpture studio/workshop into a light open space that blurs the lines dividing inside and out. Chris also created the Drinking the Moon Teahouse, which I was fortunate to see at Bellevue Arts Museum last year.

We enjoyed wagashi (tea sweets) while watching a short Smithsonian film about Japanese gardens and tea ceremony entitled, "Dream Window".  

With the tranquility and beauty of the gardens fresh in our minds, we received matcha in beautiful chawan (tea bowls).

We learned that an artisan may give a tea implement a poetic name when presenting it to a tea person and that item will be most valuable while both parties are alive.  The most valuable tea items are still in use, while those seemingly priceless tea items you might see on display at a museum have much less value because the relationship has been severed by death.

Christopher Shaw kicked off the second half of the presentation by asking everyone to share how they came to tea, either at that moment or in their lives in general.  Some grew up with tea, some had treasured moments drinking tea with loved ones, some discovered tea in their travels, and some took an interest in tea through events like this.  

Christopher shared his practice of enlightenment, finding inspiration in his environment and experiences.

All the teapots and ceramics used during this portion of the event were created by Chris whose work is also on display at Phoenix Tea in Burien.  He described his journey into creating teaware and his initial reluctance at a time when so many artists had set a trend for creating teaware without knowing about tea.  

We closed with a tasting of several steepings of a Shan Lin Xi oolong and a late-1990's puerh from Viet Nam.

Thanks to Christopher Ezzell, Christopher Shaw and the volunteers from Northwest Tea Festival for the inspiring presentation and delicious tea!

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