Flat, unglazed kyusu from Umehara Koushi of the Gyokko Kiln. This jet black kyusu is made from kokudei, or black clay, from the famed ceramics region of Tokoname in Japan. Clay from this area is high in mineral content, resulting in a rounder, thicker bodied cup of tea. Hira refers to the flat bottom.
Flat bottomed kyusus are used for brewing high grade sencha and gyokuro. The wide body allows the leaves more space to brew and cools the water quickly, which accentuates umami and sweetness.
Tokoname teapots become glossy as you use them; the porous clay absorbs flavors from the teas it brews. We recommend preparing only green tea in them.
“If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it” (2019), oil on canvas, 129 15/16 x 108 x 2 1/2 inches
Amy Sherald grew up in Columbus, Georgia, which shaped her conceptions of identity and fundamentally influenced her artistic practice. “Acknowledging the performative aspects of race and Southernness, I committed myself to exploring the interiority of Black Americans,” the artist told Smithsonian Magazine in December 2019. “I wanted to create unseen narratives.”
Now living and working in Baltimore, Sherald paints distinctive portraits set against bold, vibrant backdrops. She renders each subject, who stares directly at the viewer, in her signature grayscale. “A Black person on a canvas is automatically read as radical,” she said. “My figures needed to be pushed into the world in a universal way, where they could become a part of the mainstream art historical narrative. I knew I didn’t want it to be about identity alone.”
When considering how Sherald titles her works, it’s not surprising that she reads voraciously: “She had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them” is a line from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God; Gwendolyn Brooks wrote “She was learning to love moments, to love moments for themselves” in Maud Martha; and “The lesson of the falling leaves” is a Lucille Clifton poem. Each explores the relationship between interiority and exteriority and the experience of Black Americans.
Notably, too, Michelle Obama chose Sherald to paint her official portrait, which was released in 2018. To see more of the artist’s portraits and follow her upcoming projects, head to Instagram.
“You have to be at peace with the fact that something might happen, and you might not make it through,” says Alexandra de Steiguer, the caretaker for the Oceanic Hotel, in Brian Bolster’s short documentary, "Winter’s Watch." De Steiguer has spent the past 19 winters tending to the 43-acre grounds of the hotel, on Star Island, which sits 10 miles off the coast of New England. In the long, wintry off-season, she is the island’s sole inhabitant.
Spanish sculptor Jose Manuel Castro captures and subverts the notion of what it means to be a rock. Creating soft wrinkles entirely from carving, Castro’s works take forms that are simultaneously natural and unnatural. He writes, “Day by day, you’re discovering things and you open possibilities. This happens to all of us in our work... My stones are not lifeless. They manifest themselves.” From his meticulous detail, we are able to see a material as simple as stone through fresh eyes.
Shigeru Ban is a Japanese architect, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2014 and most known for his use of paper to construct his buildings.
Known as the Paper House (紙の家), Ban's first paper-based construction required special building code approval and became the first project that used paper as a structural base for a building. An S-shape configuration comprised of 110 paper tubes defines the interior and exterior areas of the paper house.
According to the Pritzker Prize, he attributes his desire to use recyclable materials to Japanese culture and his upbringing. Ironically, Ban may be closer to the old modernist ideals than many who build today in glass and steel. He wants beauty to be attainable by the masses, even the poorest. Ban first began to use the tubes in the '80s, in exhibitions. Impressed by the material's load-bearing capacity (he calls cardboard "improved wood"), he thought of them again in 1995, after the Kobe earthquake, and used donated 34-ply tubes to build a community hall and houses. "I was interested in weak materials," says Ban (age 42 at the time of his interview with Time). "Whenever we invent a new material or new structural system, a new architecture comes out of it."
A description of the Paper House project from the architect firm reads:
Ten paper tubes support the vertical load and the eighty interior tubes bear the lateral forces. The cruciform wooden joints in the bases of the columns are anchored to the foundation by lug screws and cantilevered from the floor. The large circle formed by the interior tubes forms a big area. A freestanding paper tubes column with a 1.2m diameter in the surrounding gallery contains a toilet. The exterior paper tubes surrounding the courtyard stand apart from the structure and serve as a screen. The living area in the large circle is without furnishing or detail other than an isolated kitchen counter, sliding doors, and movable closets. When the perimeter sashes are opened, the roof, supported by the colonnade of paper tubes, is visually emphasized and a spatial continuity is created between the surrounding gallery space and the outdoor terrace.
Genten kaiki (原点回帰) means something like, “returning to the original starting point,” or “going back to the origin.” It’s an idea lacquerware company Gato Mikio adopted as their guiding approach, a philosophy that goes into each and every bowl, plate, tea canister, vase, or sake cup they design and produce.
Since 1908, the Yamanaka Onsen-based company has been making one-of-a-kind objects, remaining steadfast in their commitment to preserving centuries-old techniques. But while Gato Mikio’s creation process is decidedly traditional, their creative process is markedly unconventional.
Gato Mikio was originally a woodworking plant, and its metamorphosis into one of Japan’s most compelling lacquerware producers took three generations to accomplish. As the business was handed down through the Gato family, the emphasis shifted from pure wood-turning to lacquerware, with particular focus on fuki-urushi, a special kind of lacquering process that highlights that natural grain of the wood.
Fuki-urushi is a clear lacquering technique, one that uses lacquer’s gleam to accentuate the organic beauty of the wood itself. Urushi (lacquer) is actually a kind of sap – when the trunk of a lacquer tree is cut, it excretes a yellow-grey sap, which is collected and then filtered of impurities. In other kinds of lacquering processes, colored pigment is added to the processed sap.
But in fuki-urushi, the glossy resin is left as-is, without dyes or added color. This permits the wood to soak up the lacquer unimpeded, causing the patterns of the wood to stand out with a healthy sheen. This surface is then polished with sandpaper, and the entire process is repeated five or six more times, to ensure both prime luster and durability.
Today fourth-generation owner Masayuki Gato and his small team of artisans are using time-tested urushi techniques, as well as kashokubiki, a kind of decorative wood-turning distinctive to the lacquerware of the Yamanaka region. Gato Mikio focuses on a particular motif called sensuji, or “thousand stripes,” which involves using a potter’s wheel to create extremely fine lines in the surface of the wood. The creation of these concentric patterns involves a pain-staking precision, as one mistake risks distorting the entire design.
While Gato Mikio approaches the physical construction of their products from a highly traditional standpoint, their designs radiate an undeniably modern ethos. They have received a variety of awards, including the 2011 German Design Plus Award, both for design sense and efforts in cultivating an ecologically conscious company. In 2012, Gato Mikio received a German Federal Design Award for Karmi, their series of minimalist tea canisters.
Despite international acclaim, Gato Mikio remains firmly ingrained in the community of Yamanaka Onsen. In refusing to trade their traditional methods for modern mass-production, the lacquerware company stresses their commitment to uplift the region and its craftspeople. This is part of their philosophy of genten kaiki – in staying rooted to the community, and in their dedication to age-old techniques, Gato Mikio is working to recover the origins of a lost ideal, a primordial faith in pure creativity.
Paul Discoe, Meditation Room Made of Recycled Cardboard for Burning Man.
"A ordained Zen Buddhist priest, Paul Discoe studied art history and philosophy as an undergraduate in the United States and Buddhist temple design and construction in Japan. He became a student of Suzuki Roshi at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in California, and, after four years, Suzuki sent him to Japan to train under a traditional master builder for five years. Discoe founded Joinery Structures in 1988. His projects include the Kojin-an Zen temple in Oakland for the Akiba Sensei, the founder's hall and kitchen at Tassajara, the Lindesfarne guesthouse and Wheelwright Center, and the abbot's house at Green Gulch, as well as several private and public projects internationally."
Listen to Paul Discoe's explanation about the project here.
Tekuno is a San Francisco-based tea company that works directly with farms and producers to showcase the quiet yet expansive world of Japanese teas. Each year, we source seasonal teas that are unique in their expressions of their terroir, tea makers, and processing. We aim to represent each tea with the same nuance and respect as that which went into crafting it. In doing so, we hope to inspire meaningful interactions—with one another and with our Earth.