Why are Chawans so expensive?

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Darbotek
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Sat Nov 21, 2020 4:17 pm

My journey into matcha didn’t last long, finding pretty quickly that I prefer loose leaf over powdered. Lately, as I do my daily Yahoo Auctions haunt, I’m taken aback by the price of chawans. If a potters pots, vases and cups are selling for $100-$500, I will see their chawans going for $1k+. Is it the tradition and formality behind matcha tea service driving up the cost? I have no idea how hard it is make a chawan, but I imagine making a kyusu is much more difficult.
karma
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Sat Nov 21, 2020 4:40 pm

I've been wondering this too, as I've even seen artists with similarly sized "large yunomi" selling for half a chawan.
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Darbotek
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Sat Nov 21, 2020 11:29 pm

karma wrote:
Sat Nov 21, 2020 4:40 pm
I've been wondering this too, as I've even seen artists with similarly sized "large yunomi" selling for half a chawan.
An example I just saw tonight was from Yoshiki. His super precise, detailed pots sit around 15000 Yen. I found a site selling a chawan of his for 35000 Yen. It makes no sense to me. But I have only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to exploring Japanese pottery, so I have no clue what makes a great chawan or how difficult it is to achieve the desired results.
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rdl
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Sun Nov 22, 2020 12:02 am

I'd like to venture an answer from the knowledge I have gleaned over the years. All pottery is made with great aesthetic care and attention. Different pieces have different challenges. But when you consider a chawan, that object is in a class by itself. I know potters will sit in front of their wheel and make what seems to be one replica after another of the same bowl. Some are not intended to be masterpieces, but practice bowls or studio works. But the pinnacle of teaware I believe is the chawan. It is looked at from foot to rim, and there are centuries of expectations that must be found pleasing in the chawan. As the tea ceremony in a sense is condensed into the teabowl, it has to have a life of it's own to support that function. When a potter puts that much into a work of art, and the knowns and unknowns of firing a piece yields a work of art, then that quality and the application of it commands a high price.
That's how I justify the price. Clay, glaze and fire are cheap. Years of devotion to the art of creating a successful chawan is what one is paying for.
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debunix
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Sun Nov 22, 2020 12:29 am

And you're also paying for all those made but discarded because they didn't meet the standard required.
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Darbotek
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Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:09 am

rdl wrote:
Sun Nov 22, 2020 12:02 am
I'd like to venture an answer from the knowledge I have gleaned over the years. All pottery is made with great aesthetic care and attention. Different pieces have different challenges. But when you consider a chawan, that object is in a class by itself. I know potters will sit in front of their wheel and make what seems to be one replica after another of the same bowl. Some are not intended to be masterpieces, but practice bowls or studio works. But the pinnacle of teaware I believe is the chawan. It is looked at from foot to rim, and there are centuries of expectations that must be found pleasing in the chawan. As the tea ceremony in a sense is condensed into the teabowl, it has to have a life of it's own to support that function. When a potter puts that much into a work of art, and the knowns and unknowns of firing a piece yields a work of art, then that quality and the application of it commands a high price.
That's how I justify the price. Clay, glaze and fire are cheap. Years of devotion to the art of creating a successful chawan is what one is paying for.
Thank you for your very thoughtful explanation, it confirms my suspicions. Loose leaf is much more informal and doesn’t have nearly the long, cultural weight behind the tea ware. A kyusu, I imagine, is much more likely to end up in someone’s home vs a chawan which could very well be used in a formal tea ceremony.
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wtreader
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Sun Dec 20, 2020 10:04 pm

Interesting thread! I have found myself thinking the same thing and wondering if it was just me haha. :lol:
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Baisao
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Tue Dec 22, 2020 1:07 am

Sure it take some skill to make a chawan that aligns with the centuries old cult of chanoyu, but really the pricing is about status signaling to guests.
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Bok
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Tue Dec 22, 2020 2:36 am

There are some interesting thoughts about the Japanese cult of Chawan and their idols from old Korean pottery in that book(the title slipped my mind, will look it up) on Japanese beauty ideals. And how Japanese potters have for decades tried to imitate the haphazard nature of them - and mostly failed, as they were literally trying to hard :)
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Bok
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Tue Dec 22, 2020 2:42 am

Got it. It’s this book: The Unknown Craftsman, a Japanese insight into Beauty

Highly recommended , I just wish the images were in colour...
Tom_McC
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Thu Aug 26, 2021 8:56 am

Hi Bok.

Thanks for the book recommendation. I've bought it and look forward to reading it!

Regards

Tom
faj
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Thu Aug 26, 2021 10:23 am

Also of interest, the concept of Veblen goods, which are goods for which demand increases when their price increases, because of their status signaling role.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veblen_good
olivierd
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Thu Aug 26, 2021 11:14 am

I tend to believe there is some misconception in thinking chawan are widely more exensive than other pieces.
Take a look at Kenji Hara or Fuku Fukumoto inventory lists. You will notice that chawan are indeed more expensive than smaller pieces like guinomi but might be cheaper than larger pieces.
Of course market forces like demand and supply, and the artist management tend to favor chawan and thus inflate prices but not to the extreme. Also, because the chawan is physical touched by the guests in the tea ceremony and has to be inspected and appreciated by them, the bowl needs to show "perfection" whatever that means in that context. I don't know of any drinker that will thoroughly inspect his guinomi, specially by the end of the drinking night... And as said chawan is also elevated to an "art" piece for Japanese, while guinomi, yumoni are more perceived as functional cups.
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