Tea Bowl Series—Oribe

Futura Oribe, also known as Futura Shigenari, was a Daimyo war lord who lived from 1544 to July 6th, 1615 in Japan. He was a contemporary with the Tea Master Sen no Rikyu. He studied under him and was one of Rikyu’s seven exulted disciples. He was well educated, smart, and had an excellent sense of taste. Having been given one of Rikyu’s hand carved Tea Scoops before Rikyu committed ritual suicide, Oribe called it ‘Tears’ and had a special bamboo tube made with a small window to view it while he venerated it.

Oribe was also an artist. Having seen Mino ware and observing a green copper glaze developed by the Chinese but rarely used, he set to work on developing a style of ceramic that was bold and innovative. His irregular forms and alien designs were the stuff of shock and awe in the stately quiet world of Tea. Under Rikyu’s advice and guidance, his new style of colors and patterns were so modern that even today one finds them to be cutting edge and worth studying. His pieces would fit well in any mid-century modern living room. He was the ‘Picasso’ of his time and he brought the Japanese aesthetic to new heights of expression. At the time he was producing, the Portuguese had landed and the Dutch were trading at the port of Sakai. Speculation of his radical designs lead to the theory that he borrowed patterns from fabrics and objects brought by these foreigners to this far off set of Islands. New influences were having an effect. Gone were the symmetrically round forms of the tea bowl and the clean edges found on dishes to serve food. He warped and dented them; smacked and molded the clay to fit his mind set.

There are basically four types of Oribe ware; Green covering the whole piece, Green with White slip and iron oxide designs, a pale red with the same glaze and marks, and black. He had such an affect on his generation that he started his own school of Tea. His work is admired by many and a piece showing his style of work is worth having. The green that he used hints at the grasses poking through the snow waiting for Spring; his black is hypnotic. His pale red slips are soothing and his designs are arresting to the eye. I have fondness for his works.

He died earlier in life. He was asked to commit suicide by the reigning Tokugawa shogun of the time. Here are examples of his works and his style perpetuated by later artists working under his influence.


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