"With the tea ceremony in Kanazawa, the artist and the user of the work do not stand above or below each other, " Nakamura explains. "They are on the same level, and the artist incorporates the opinion of the user into his or her work. Because this is a small city, how the guests react to the ceremony and the design of the tea implements eventually reaches the artist's ears. So there is a close relationship between artist and user."
Nakamura's family has crafts in its blood. He learned the ceramics from his father, Baizan Nakamura II, and his brothers Kinpei and Kohei Nakamura are ceramic artists as well. However, Takuo was a company employee into his thirties and came to ceramics relatively late in life. Every other member of his family was involved in crafts, and perhaps for that very reason he found it difficult to decide what he wanted to make at first. Noticing, however, that everyone else was focused on "making" things, it occurred to him that he mights find his own path by "breaking" things instead. The water jar shown here is part of "Series in Stone," his first-ever conceptual work. Using table and kitchen knives, he cut away at the clay until he had produced a new form through the very process if breaking the original form down. The tea bowl is one in his "Vessels That Gave Up Being Vessels" series. As facets were cut into its surface, the soft clay naturally curved and warped; the resulting shape was set in place by the firing process. Each of these works is sure to quicken the imagination of the user.
At first glance this may seem a rather curious assemblage of tea ceremony utensils, but guests are free to experience them on their own terms. For all its challenging contemporary look, the Takuo style retains the tea ceremony's spirit of hospitality at its core, ensuring that it will continue to enjoy the patronage of discerning Kanazwans for generations to come.
Inset: "An exhibition of Nakamura's works will be held this autumn in New York: "Revisiting Rimpa - Design, Function, and the Art of Nakmaura Takuo" September 12 to October 19. Joan B Mirviss Ltd, 39 East 78th Street, New York City.
Click here to download the article as a PDF.