Meet David Louveau de la Guigneraye as he adds wood to his small oven/kiln built in the ground. As you can see here and in my other article, David Louveau uses very traditional and ancient methods to prepare, work and fire his clay. He traveled to Korea to learn his craft and has also drawn his inspiration from Yanagi's book, The Unknown Craftsman. This explains the dominant Asian inspiration of his work. David Louveau also loves to drink Chinese teas (puerh and oolong). This tea passion guides him to make accessories that are not just pleasant to watch and hold. They are also useful and greatly improve the tea experience (when paired with the right tea).
23 cl for 260 grams.
This earth ware teapot was fired in the small oven shown above for 18 hours. There is no glazing inside or outside. It is simply the product of earth and fire. And yet, the outer surface of this teapot little bit unevenly shiny. Why? This shine comes from the wood's ashes as they fly in the oven and melt down where they fall. This is one of the reasons why a wood fired kiln can give more interesting results than a gas fired kiln or an electric oven. You'll also see that the color is darker on the upper part, because the heat is stronger. You can even see which side was facing the fire. The colors and the rugged feel of such a teapot are so natural. Amazing!
Beyond aesthetics, will the wood fired kiln have a positive impact on the tea? All things being equal, yes! To understand why, Teaparker proposes the analogy with heating water: boiled water tastes better, softer when we use wood or charcoal fire than when we use electricity or gas.
A characteristic of such earth ware is porosity. I can hear the teapot sparkle when boiling water is poured inside. This is the sound of pores releasing their air. These pores help filter and absorb smells and tastes. The best fit for such teapot are very strong teas like cooked puerh. I made some tests with different teas:
- 'fruity' Dong Ding Oolong: it came out smelling like a more lightly oxidized Oolong and almost nonexistent taste! (Bad fit)
- high roast Dong Ding Oolong from this spring: the strong roast taste was gone and replaced with a honey, sugar taste. Fragrances were fresh again. (Improved!) However, I used glazed porcelain cups to drink it. Using an earthware cup absorbed on top absorbed too much taste,
- top roasted Tie Guan Yin of 2005: Huuummm... Same as the high roast Dong Ding.
- 1990s raw old arbor Yiwu puerh: the result was a puerh that tasted 10 years younger!! Not really a good fit, since you'd want to drink the 'old' side of this tea.
- 2000 cooked Fuhai brick: Here I also used unglazed cup below. The result was much smoother and mellow than usual. Strong smells were just right and the taste even felt lively and bright. A perfect fit.
Below are items that have been fired in David Louveau's big kiln from September 21st to 28. His pottery occupied 2.5 cubic meters and he used 20 cubic meters of wood for the 7 days. More time and more wood mean more impact on the pottery:
5 cl for 90 grams.
It's easy to see that this cup was placed under another cup. 75% of the surface that was most exposed to the fire shows a strong natural gloss. With fire, heat and ashes unevenly distributed in the kiln, each piece comes out looking different and unique. They look even rougher, almost primitive and even ... alive! (Happy Halloween, by the way!) This cup made of earth has been through fire and has expressed its character.
I made the same tea tests and confirmed what Teaparker wrote in his book Cha Bei: earth ware cups fit hei cha (cooked puerh) best.
13 cm diameter and 236 grams.
David Louveau also likes to make simple tea bowls. This one displays wonderful natural color variations. It feels much lighter and thinner than it looks like.
The above pictures were taken outdoors under the late afternoon sun.
For the next bowl, I took my pictures indoors, near a window but without direct sunshine. It works well, because for this bowl the earth is green/gray:
13 cm diameter and 240 grams.
This side took the full impact of the fire. It's a survivor.
And the other side shows amazing color variations and even a thick layer of natural ashes made shiny glazing. And close to the rim, you can see more traces of dried ashes.
It's difficult to remain indifferent to these wares. If you drink cooked puerh, they are a natural fit. What I like most about them is the uncompromising way they are made: each is unique because they were made the traditional way, as they could have been made thousands of years ago.