Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A tea set for shu puerh

In August 2009, I spent 3 days with David Louveau de la Guigneraye. He showed me how he works, we drank nice teas and then I gave him directions to create tea specific accessories. In the above Cha Xi, we can see the first results of our cooperation.

After understanding David's natural approach to pottery, I decided to help him design a set with cooked puerh in mind. His clays are very pure and wild. His technique is also very free and powerful. That's why the best fit is shu puerh, a tea that benefits from a very porous and pure clay.

We started to design some simple accessories for our Cha Xi.

For glazed items, David usually uses his gas oven (left) to fire them. We decided to start with a basic tea set, glazed in white, to serve as a contrast to the dark puerh.

The gas oven will give the pieces a more even color so that we can pair them more easily and it will also make them more affordable.


For these items, David has prepared a mix of local clay and unrefined, iron rich kaolin from Auvergne (50/50). The slip and glaze consists of unrefined felspar, lime and this kaolin.

What he obtains is a crackled (Ge or Ko) porcelain. The cracks appear because the materials used are very rough.

- The tea boat and teapot stand have a diameter of 18 cm and a height of 4 cm approx. They weigh 450 and 100 gr. They are very heavy and somewhat uneven, because they were handmade with rough materials. This brings a feeling of stability and power to the Cha Xi.

Next, David made this cup and stand (Cha Tuo). Its maximum diameter is 10 cm and the total height is 8 cm. The cup weighs 90 gram for 7cl and the stand 210 gr approximately.

We found our inspiration in the shape of this Yuan dynasty cup. Since David uses old techniques, I feel that ancient designs are a good match. Here, this Cha Tuo elevates the cup in the air. The effect is similar to a wine glass with a long foot. The tea is closer to heaven and feels more 'respected'.
After drinking wo dui (shu) puerh several times, the cracks started to absorb the color of the tea (below). This underlines how alive this cup (and the plate) are. They will change color over time. You will even notice how they even change color as you pour boiling water in them, because this renders the glazing transparent.

The teapots have been fired by wood end of January 2010, under the snow. They came out of the kiln on February 2nd.

David used a mix of local clays which are rather fine, sandy and rich in iron. It requires firing at a temperature of 1200 degrees Celcius.

For the shape, I advised David to make the teapot more 'classic', rounder without appearing fat. The handle, knob and spout look in harmony with each other and the body of the teapot. The handle isn't completely round, but a little square for a better grip. A small foot isolates the foot from the ground. The wall of the cover is long and slightly bent inside... (David has paid a lot of attention to a lot of important details.)
The inside filter is flat and composed of 9 holes. White spots on the rim of the pot are marks left by a natural separation during firing: the cover was fired directly on the pot so that the fit would remain tight.

The 13 cl teapot weighs 200 gr approximately.
The result of this firing under snow is a naturally dark colored teapot. Red firing marks are subtle.

The teapot in the tea boat is a nice contrast of light and darkness, Yin and Yang. A similar contrast happens also in the cups.

At my first sip, I was amazed of how sweet and mellow my shu puerh tasted! Amazingly beautiful and delicious!
With this Cha Xi, my other potter friends, Petr Novak (the jar) and Michel (the black bowl) join David Louveau's tea set (and the black vase) to compose a perfect picture of tea and friendship.

7 comments:

Kim Christian said...

Very beautiful cups !!
I really like how the crackling
starts to get tea stained !!

I am sure they will also be good
for drinking old sheng pu :)...

Stephane said...

Thanks Kim!

The teapot can also be used to round some rough raw puerhs.

Karen said...

Beautiful composition!

Jeremy said...

I received David's tea boat yesterday and it's absolutely wonderful. I love the weight of it and the slight irregularities of the glaze. It has a very strong but calm and earthy presence, which matched the aged Dan Cong that I was drinking last night very well.

It's wonderful to see the fruits of such positive collaboration. I am looking forward to seeing what may come in the future!

Jacob ross Bodilly said...

great pots, cant wait to see one in the flesh. happy tea drinking and life. Jacob

lastcoyote said...

I received the Teaboat and Cup and Stand today. Such beautiful pieces! Really love them thanks!Love how the crackling glaze takes on the tea color. The Zisha teapot that I got from you also looks really nice on the Teaboat Stand.

Sima said...

Juste un rapide mot pour dire que j'ai reçu ma commande la semaine dernière, toujours parfaitement emballée par Stéphane et enrichie de petits cadeaux (échantillons de puerh).
Quelle commande ? tout simplement le "tea set" dont il est question dans ce post : la théière, le bateau à thé et 2 tasses faites par David Louveau.
Après quelques jours, je ne suis pas déçu par la présence vivante de cette poterie, à la fois brute et fine, et qui évolue avec les jours. Exactement ce que je voulais pour le puerh. Merci !