22 March, 2009


Perhaps it was just...

Seigan Hagiyaki

...a matter...

Seigan Hagiyaki

of time!

Seigan Hagiyaki

This charming fellow arrived some weeks back. Packed in tissue paper, wound wround in plastic-wrap, put into a wooden box, wrapped in gift-paper, tied with a bow, wrapped in tissue paper, wrapped in bubble-wrap, placed in a cardboard box and padded with air-cushions, this was perhaps the most well-wrapped item I have ever received.

I take the acquisition of teaware very seriously, not wanting to accumulate redundant clutter, and our configuration hasn't changed in over a year: same pots, same cups, same kettles. Realising that the consumption of matcha really requires something a little more apropos, and given our tastes for all things wabi-sabi, there was no real alternative to this charming chawan [tea-bowl] for us.

I can heartily recommend Magokorodo, the popular eBay shop from which this was bought. The bowl feels dense and good in the hands.

Fans of Japanese teaware will know that this is hagiyaki [Hagi-style teaware] - this particular white-glaze genre of Hagiyaki is "oni" [ghost]. This is a rather unfortunate character in Chinese, but perhaps not so in Japanese.

It is a piece by Seigan Yamane (Seigan being his family name, written in the Oriental manner with surname first), a potter currently in his late 50s, well-known for his Hagiyaki and, in particular, the lovely blue pieces recently exhibited by Alex and Brent.

We've been enjoying morning matcha since being enthused to do so after a recent trip to the British Museum, and feeling all the better for it. Seigan's hagiyaki makes that experience all the more pleasing. I am a maniacal whisker.

(Additional notes provided for the 2005 Mengyang Guoyan "Laobanzhang".)


Jamus said...


Beautiful piece! Upon my initial inspection, I mistook this for an elegant baked good with a thick white sugary frosting. Then, after slowing down (I just woke up) my eyes saw one of the most unique hagiyaki bowls I've ever seen. Never before in such a short period of time have I felt hungry for sweets and thirsty for matcha! Great acquisition!

Best wishes,

Hobbes said...

Dear Jamus,

It does rather look like a frosted shredded wheat! The surface is smooth and porous, having been fired at a low temperature.

Every time it is used, there is a gentle crackling noise, as the glaze fractures minutely. As I'm sure you know, one of the signs of aging a Hagiyaki chawan is an evermore complex web of crackles in its glaze.

The "under-bowl" is a rough and very dense orange clay, with an almost volcanic glaze over the top that makes it look moist.

I can understand that such things would look quite revolting to some (I can easily imagine the revulsion of my grandmother, for example), but I love its imperfection, and its otherworldliness.

Plus, it's great as a matcha bowl, being very heavy, and most pleasant to touch.

My mother is coming to visit us next week, so I look forward to her reaction...



Jamus said...


My parents have the same reaction to some of my wares. Plus, they don't understand the enjoyment of tea from such tiny little cups. Dad always says "Just put it in a mug for your mother and I." I'd be interested to hear you mother's reaction, just make sure she doesn't pour milk over top of it and attempt to eat it with a spoon. ^__^


Hobbes said...

My mother really enjoys a gongfucha session, but I think it's more a desire to enjoy something with her son than any real passion for tea (which is very adorable). My father, on the other hand, doesn't fancy the "little cups", and would much rather a "proper cup of tea"!



Matt said...


Hobbes said...

Hi, Laos-traveller!

Bearsbearsbears said...

Every time i see a thick, crawled oni, I can't help but think: how do they DO that?! any insight on the process or the glaze?

geneviève meylan said...

beautifull piece ! I really love this oni -hagi, I am a "fan" !
Magokorodo is a very kind seller and his ceramic is a very good choice !

Circle Community Acupuncture said...

Something about it is wonderfully Baroque. Perhaps it is the lighting in your photographs.

One of the early origins of the word "baroque" translates as "imperfect pearl", which does imply a bit of the wabi sabi.

I'm sure it's tactile weight does shape the experience of drinking matcha.

Beautiful and horrendous.


Jamus said...


It reminds me of something my art professor used to say all the time. "If something isn't Baroque, don't fix it."

I always thought it was a funny sort of juxtaposition to the literal translation of the word.


Bill said...

Mmmmm looks like a frosted ginger bread cookie. *rubs hands and licks lips*

Matt said...

Hummmm… The glaze is ghastly thick, clumping white, how wonderful. It seems thicker than what one usually sees with this type of work. This style originated from Korea but is rarely seen there these days. The ‘Na Noom’ style foot makes quite a prominent (apparently stomach rumbling) impression. Can you get a sense of the underlying clay through the tactile sensations of cradling fingers or is this one a teaser?

What kind of matcha are you whisking in its goopy white innards?


Hobbes said...

Dear Jason,

I'd wondered the same. Some of the other pieces by Seigan are a good pointer as to its method, but I couldn't guess at its contents. Given the friendly nature of the chaps at Magokorodo and Artistic Nippon, who sell "oni" style, I'm sure they could help you. Let us know what you find out!

Dear Gingko,

I'm glad you like it! It's the first item I've bid on for many years. I forgot how tiring it is to log in at 2 a.m. and ensure that you get the winning bid!

Dear David,

It is both beautiful and horrendous, I totally agree. If the Baroque is about the suggestion of movement, then this is a glooping, oozing, pustulation!

Dear Jamus,

I came across a new book with that title recently. It was on classical music, though. :)

Dear Bill,

It's interesting, the range of reactions that such a strange piece provokes. Some people see horrendous beauty, some people see wonderful ghastliness, some people (I'm one of them) sees sugar frosting. Haha...

Dear Matt,

Ghastly is spot on, it's absolutely gastliche. I believe all Hagiyaki were ultimately derived from Korean works, as the large amounts of the Korean workforce was obligated to move to the province during Japanese-Korean conflicts.

This bowl is a fantastic one to hold, it really is. The smooth frosting is hideous, ghastly - it reminds me of a H.P. Lovecraft abomination. Between it, the volcanic crust of the shiny glaze, and yet underneath, where the palm rests to support its cloven hooves, it is heavy, rough, and pure clay.

Such randomness belies the exacting workmanship that has occurred here, which can be seen when you consider the perfect flatness of the four feet. There is no wobble at all. Remarkable.

Toodlepip all,


Hobbes said...

P.s. Matt, we've been enjoying two varieties from the superb O-Cha: the Kiku Mukashi [Zhuxi - Chrysanthemum Ancient], which is thin usucha, and Chiyo Mukashi [Qiandaixi - Thousand Generations Ancient], which is thick koicha.