From our own hands

I make a bowl of matcha in the morning for myself and I always make a point of sitting down to enjoy it rather than drinking standing in the kitchen before I start my day.   But I will tell you that a bowl of matcha always tastes so much better if someone makes it for you.  Even though I make my own bowl of tea exactly the way I like it — hot and thick — I still think a bowl of tea tastes better even if my host doesn’t make it perfectly suited to my taste.  Why is that?

I believe it is the personal touch that matters.  Making a bowl of tea for someone nurtures a personal relationship that goes beyond words. In a literal sense, giving food and drink to someone sustains life, and creates a bond between people.  Sitting down and breaking bread and drinking together has always been a way to affirm or create relationships between people.

When I was a new student at Midorikai, my sempai asked me to make a bowl of tea for him after class in the mizuya.   I was in a hurry, and I wanted to finish up my chores in the mizuya before dinner.  So I didn’t warm the bowl, and I didn’t use very hot water, and I just did a cursory whisk of the tea.  It was really an awful bowl of tea.  After he drank it, he told me, “Marjorie, when you make a bowl of tea for someone, make it as though it is going to be the best bowl of tea you ever made.  Every time you make tea for someone, it is not the practice tea, it is the real tea. Put your heart into it.”

I have never forgotten that lesson and now every time I make a bowl of tea, I put my heart into it.  I not only put my heart but love into it as well.  When we host someone at a chakai, all the preparation that goes into it comes from the heart.  In temae, all the purification of utensils is also purification of your heart so that by the time you are ready to make tea, it is your pure heart that goes into making it.

And you can taste this difference in the tea.  The taste of heart and love is the same as when you were small and your mom made your favorite meal.  Nobody who ever made the same meal could ever come close to making that meal taste as good.  Mom’s home cooking is the best.

That is why when I see videos like this:

or this:

I find it hard to think about drinking this tea.  With a machine,  you can program it to make a consistent bowl of tea every time  — the same amount of tea and water, the same number of strokes, the same consistency bowl after bowl after bowl.  But a machine making tea cannot create the same kind of experience that a human making a bowl of tea can.  Besides no heart and no love, the lovely sound of the whisk is obscured by the mechanics of the gears and clicking of the machine.  There is a separation of people where all eyes on the machine.  Where is the beauty, the harmony and tranquility?

Making a bowl of tea can never be replaced by machine.  It can only come from our own hands.

Permanent link to this article: http://issoantea.com/from-our-own-hands/

Of art and artists

I have some artist friends and we talk about art and artists all the time. A few of them include: a musician (cello), a woodworker (studio furniture and sculpture), ceramic artist (vessels and sculpture), a dancer (modern and ethnic), a film director, a theater director, a landscape photographer, a writer (magazine/novel/essayist), and fashion designer among the most verbal. Most of them have been working and making a living in their art for more than 25 years. Most of them have gained some regional, national or international recognition.

Here are a few points from the conversations we have been having:

  1. Most of them did not set out to be an artist. Even the musician and the dancer came to their art later than high school.
  2. Most of them spent years working on technique, fundamentals, and basic craftsmanship in their chosen art.
  3. None of them (most in the 60s – 70s ) felt like they were at the top of their game. They were sure that their best work is yet to come.
  4. At one time or another, all of them had taught others in their chosen art.
  5. Most had wide ranging interests in many fields other than their art. A few were history buffs, some were gardeners, others were interested in psychology and other fields.
  6. Most of them did not pursue their art because they could make money, though a some have commercial endeavors to fund their artistic explorations.
  7. Public acceptance, while a consideration, most of them would still pursue their art if nobody bought, listened or viewed their work.
  8. Contrary to the popular conception of artists pursuing their work as “artistic expression” most of them talked about “personal exploration.” Conversations have revolved around “finding myself in art” or “discovering what and who I am” in their art.
  9. None of them considered themselves masters of their art. They were open to learning more, learning from others, and sharing insights.
  10. All of them had failures or major set backs at some point in their artistic careers. A couple have had catastrophic failures.
  11. All of them at one time or another, questioned whether they were meant to pursue their art.
  12. All of them felt compelled to pursue their chosen field of art, it was something they could not imagine not doing for the rest of their lives.

For me, these conversations have fueled my own pursuit of Chado as my chosen “art.” These artists are inspirational and I see my own life reflected in these conversations. I hope you will find these points interesting and inspirational, too.

Permanent link to this article: http://issoantea.com/of-art-and-artists/

Shifuku making workshop

Shifuku are important protection for utensils, and part of temae for koicha is opening and handling of the shifuku for chaire. Each shifuku is custom fit for each utensil.  Sometimes we find utensils without a shifuku, or the shifuku is badly damaged.  Or perhaps you would like to use a bit of fabric to make a completely new shifuku.  Many famous utensils have more than one.

Shifuku Workshop

We will be holding a shifuku making workshop in March and April. The  class will be in 3 parts.

Part 1 is making measurements and drafting a pattern. Bring your utensil to the first class so we can custom fit the pattern.

Part 2 is cutting, sewing and fitting a muslin trial. You will learn sewing techniques and how to attach the cord to your shifuku, which is a little tricky.

Part 3 is making the final shifuku with brocade fabric. When you have completed the class, you will be able to draft your own patterns and sew shifuku for any number of utensils from chaire to natsume, teabowls and more.

I have left enough time between classes so you can complete your homework, or bring it to regular tea class for help.

There will be kits for sale with enough fabric to make a trial muslin and final silk brocade for an average chaire.  Batting, cord and thread to attach to the shifuku is also included with the kit for both final and muslin. For a complete supplies list go here.

No previous sewing experience in necessary.  The class will be taught by Kate and Margie

When: Saturdays, March  31, April 14, and May 5.  10:00 am- 12:00 noon
Where: Issoan Tea School
Cost: $100 for the class.  Kits available for $35.

Space is limited. To reserve your spot, please use the link at right to submit at $30 deposit.

 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://issoantea.com/shifuku-making-workshop/

From the archives

It is hard to believe that I have been writing about chado for ten years.  As I was looking through the blog archives in preparation for writing another post, I thought it might be good to highlight some of these previous posts.  Are any of these favorites?  Would you like me to cover other topics?  Would you like to guest blog?

Ten years ago:
There are no shortcuts
Order from chaos
On receiving teaching

Nine years ago:
Reduce, recycle, reuse, and repair
Pay attention to what you are doing

Eight years ago:
Knowing contentment
What do you love?

Seven years ago:
Starting over
There is more to life
The power of commitment

Six years ago:
Telling stories
Upon entering the tearoom

Five years ago:
Gomei discussion
The true way of tea
Paring back to the essential

Four years ago
White Clouds
Beginner’s heart
You have just two hands
All in

Three years ago
Letting go
10 things I learned at Midorikai
Kokoro, the heart of tea
Do your best

Two years ago
The taste of tea
The sound of boiling water
Flying geese signal autumn has come

Last year
Lifelong learning
Supporting players
Making a good bowl of koicha
The difficulty of Chado study

 

Permanent link to this article: http://issoantea.com/from-the-archives-5/

Passing the light

It is with heavy heart we are still mourning the loss of another member of our tea community in Portland.  June Moriyasu  sensei was a long time leader, teacher and advocate for chanoyu who passed away late last year.  It hardly seems like she is gone, only on an trip and will be back soon.  Her home was a center for teaching and workshops.  Many celebrations and events were held there as well.  I know she is well known outside our community.  She will be very much missed.

As I was looking around at Hatsugama this year, I was noticing that many of our teachers and members are in their 70s, 80s and 90s.  Some of them are no longer teaching so we only see them at events.  It has come home to me that a generation of teachers will be leaving us.  I have for a long time been the youngest teacher and now I realize that the light is being passed on to those of us coming up.

It is a big responsibility to carry on the traditions, to lead the community, and to teach others the way.  There are such wonderful examples to guide me.  I am grateful to have such an active, generous and loving tea community and I hope for many years to come that our teachers and sempai will continue to nurture us.

God speed June-sensei.  I hope you are enjoying a wonderful chakai with Minako-sensei and Taikyo.

Permanent link to this article: http://issoantea.com/passing-the-light/