As a young man seeking meaning in a disordered life, I became a martial artist. The structure and the discipline of Shotokan Karate appealed but it was the spiritual discipline and the emphasis on respect and connection to a wider, global community that gave me what I was looking for.
My first exposure to a tea ceremony was in this world. Invited to observe a ceremony I was profoundly moved. Even in this situation, I was drawn to meditate on the bringing together and focus this deceptively simple ceremony created. A harmony of thought, feel, and movement similar to my own experience of kata.
The power of the tea bowl as the focal vessel for providing spiritual and corporeal nourishment struck me and stayed with me.
When I began to work in clay 10 years later I did not feel ready to begin to produce Teabowls. The work I did create relied on the unpredictability of the glaze finishes I used and the discipline imposed by using Limoges porcelain. My dissertation was on crystalline and copper red glazes. I combined these to produce objects which I could only hope would encourage people to reflect on the unselfconscious beauty of the natural process. My national success following New Designers, my selection for The Festival of Britain, and unexpectedly frenetic international profile did not provide the stillness that I needed to evolve these ideas.
It is only in recent years, three decades on, that I have finally felt ready to make my contribution to the world of Chado.
Returning to live in a place of natural beauty, gloriously varied geology and bountiful woodlands has been an important part of this decision. The structure and discipline of creating multiple items of bespoke dining ware for Michelin starred chefs has also played a part. This has helped remind me that rituals around eating and drinking surround us, whether we chose to label them as spiritual or not. It has also helped my understanding of the importance of a sense of connecting narrative in my work. These factors have driven my increasing use of natural unrefined materials and my joy in the unpredictable beauty they create.
Tea Bowls invite interaction from all our senses.
Foraged materials provide a connection from these to the natural world. When creating a Teabowl, I invite these connections to be experienced. I have been honored enough to be able to observe some of my Tea Bowls in use. That experience, including the consideration they receive, transforms my relationship with the Teabowl, and continually inspires my future practice.
It is the interaction of iterative processes in the studio, tearoom, and landscape that helps inspire and drives my work forward.