About the Steel Tea Tools #1

"Tetsu-Tetsu" Coloured-Bamboo Teaspoon: steel replica

 The teaspoon is a tool to transfer powdered green tea from the tea caddy to the tea-bowl. When not in use it is kept in the storage tube. From the time of Sen no Rikyu, bamboo became the standard material of the teaspoon. It is said that, in the old days, a new teaspoon was used for every ceremony.

 For me this is one of the most memorable works, as it was the first object I made for the tearoom. Initially, I didn't have the faintest idea of where to begin, or what to create first. I borrowed a teaspoon from my grandmother-in-law.

 Painstakingly and blindly, I began shaping steel into a teaspoon. Then, strangely enough, knowledge of the tea ceremony filled my head. The way in which the world works as an entity ran through my whole body, from my head to my toes. Unfortunate- ly, such good circumstances did not happen, but from just one small teaspoon, the production of the rest of the tearoom, and if you will, the universe, began.

 I named the teaspoon 哲徹 (tetsu-tetsu) meaning ”devotion to philosophy”. The first character meaning “philosophy”, while the second, taken from “Tettei”, the name of the tearoom itself, means “to devote oneself to”.

“Kana-Kiri” Bamboo Tea Whisk: steel replica

 Once the hot water is added to the powdered green tea, the whisk is used to mix it thoroughly and create the frothy texture. Traditionally, the tea whisk can not be used many times, so it is not usually given a name. However, I named my bamboo steel tea-whisk "Kana-Kiri", written as 金霧 meaning "metal fog". This implement is essential to the making of matcha tea for the ceremony.

 I handcrafted the tea-whisk from one sheet of steel. Carefully and painstakingly I cut the steel sheet into 1mm strips with special scissors. While cutting and shaping the sheet into the form of a tea-whisk I thought of the name "Kana-Kiri", written as 金切 meaning "metal cut". Instead of the character for "cut", Kato chose the character for "fog", representing the frothy fog-like texture that the tea-whisk gives to the green tea.

"Kana-Koma" Steel Tea Caddy

 The tea caddy holds the green tea powder used for the tea ceremony and was made by turning and shaving a 65 mm in diameter solid steel rod. A tool bit was used to rotate and shape the steel little by little. When rotated the marks of the tool bit against the steel were really beautiful. I was reminded of the old Japanese spinning-top toy called 独楽 (koma). However, I was drawn to the impression of the single character 駒 (koma) meaning "piece". Combined with 金, meaning “metal”, the steel tea caddy was named “Kana-Koma” meaning “metal piece”.

"Nana-Hoshi" Bamboo Ladle: steel replica

 A ladle is a tool to serve water or soup. It has a long handle with a bowl-shaped container on one end. In the tea ceremony the ladle is made out of bamboo. It is used to take hot water from the kettle so the end is quite small.

 The seven bright stars that make up the waist the tail of Ursa Major also form the shape of a ladle and is called The Big Dipper or 斗 (”to”) in Japanese.

 I found it interesting that such a famous constellation was likened to a ladle, also one of the essential tea ceremony objects. In traditional tea culture, the tearoom and tea ceremony are considered unearthly spaces existing in the cosmos. Fittingly, I chose the name “Nana-Hoshi” meaning “seven stars” for my ladle.

Translated by Ruth MacConville & Chie Uchida.

Special thanks to TEZUKAYAMA Gallery.