Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cowboy Chabako ready for a gathering

I'm planning a tea gathering for 4 guests next Saturday. My "Cowboy Chabako" is ready for the Wakei Chabako temae which was created by Tantansai (Urasenke Chanoyu 14th Grand Master) for his son in WWII who later devoted his life to promoting "Peacefulness through a Bowl of Tea."

On the right is the blue enamel coffeepot for heating water for tea, which is sitting on a copper-lined wooden box that holds the electric heater. Additional sweets will be served in the lidded oval leather box, front right. The cedar chabako, back left, has an usuita, single board, strapped on top. The vintage metal kensui, for receiving discarded rinse water, is a recent Christmas gift. 

The Wakei Chabako temae uses two chawan that nest together with a small lacquered natsume (tea caddy). Angela Rogers made the chawan with cactus motif and I bought the small red raku chawan in Kyoto in 1983. The furidashi sweets container is a tequila glass bound with leather that I fitted with a cork wrapped in gold foil.

See more pictures in my Sept. 24 entry


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Happy Holly Daze Chabako 

Yesterday I stopped by one of my favorite resale shops and found this cute holiday recipe box (Size: 5 x 4.5 x 6.5 inches) and a set of nesting wooden snowmen boxes. It will be a perfect holiday chabako to take on my trip to visit my parents and sister in Illinois next week, where it's probably more like winter than here in Austin.

Luckily I already had a very small tea whisk and a snowy white teabowl made by Angela Rogers. I will paint the round wooden box (tea caddy) to look like a piece of red & white peppermint candy; varnish the inside of the snowmen - the larger one for hard sugar candy, and the smaller to hold the chakin (white wet cleaning cloth). The red & white cloth underneath will become the kobukusa (small napkin) and tea scoop cover.

Chanoyu is a meditative practice, but I think that it's ok to create some child-like cheer on a cold dreary day. Have fun this winter!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cowboy Picnic Chanoyu

Vintage leather box made in Texas and Japanese nodate set.

Nodate 野点 is a general term for a picnic style tea ritual often done outdoors or in more casual situations. The most informal nodate set includes a little basket with brocade fabric top and drawstring closure that holds a small teabowl and very small powdered tea container called ko-natsume. The tiny bamboo tea whisk and tea scoop travel along in a small bamboo tube-box attached to the drawstring. The tea scoop folds in half and goes inside the handle of the tea whisk - so neat!  

My friend knew that I had been searching a long time for a leather box for Cowboy Chabako and was thrilled when her friend out in the country offered her an old one made by Nighthawk Saddlery in Bandera, Texas. I am so grateful to receive such a well-made box! It's not quite tall enough for a standard chabako because the lacquer tube for the tea whisk won't stand upright inside it. But, it makes a fun and very informal hybrid chabako-nodate set. 

Here it is with the wonderful chawan my friend Angela Rogers made especially for my cowboy chabako set. The glass boot will hold the damp white chakin (cloth for cleaning the teabowl). I look forward to taking it along on a day-trip to the country soon.
Teabowl by Angela Rogers
"Happy Trails to you."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cowboy Chabako Nears Completion!

The Cowboy Chabako set that I started in May this year is nearing completion. The idea initially started with a glass cowboy boot that I reckoned could be used as a chakin-zutsu and also reflect our Texas location. Since I wanted to use my home-made Cowboy Chabako for tea lessons today, I worked hard this week to finish the main parts. 

As I worked, I thought more about my research for the cowboy theme. There are some interesting comparisons between Japanese chabako and American cowboy life on the trail. Chuck is a cowboy term for food, hence, a chuck wagon is a mobile kitchen. All the equipment is carried on the wagon in wooden boxes with the dual purposes of storing and then folding out to be used as a preparation area. The coffee pot was sometimes hung from a tripod of iron rods over an open fire, similar to the Japanese way of heating water in a kettle hanging over a fire on the ground for outdoor tea gatherings. 

Of course, the big difference between the two activities is that the chuck wagon was essential equipment for feeding working American cowboys on the dusty trail and while chabako was designed by the elite, educated strata of Japanese society as an outdoor aeshetic experience (viewing cherry blossoms, moon-viewing) in a beautiful garden landscape.

This comparison reminds me of my beloved Grandma who taught me to imagine that I was a lady with elegant manners at a tea party, even though we were actually sitting on her little front porch on the edge of a country town, snapping the beans that Grandpa had grown in their garden. Somehow she implied that how we thought about what we were doing turned an every-day job done well into a fulfilling and worthy act. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I now realize that to her a “lady” was someone who behaved with dignity and respect for all things and people, rather than someone with money. I think this is very much in keeping with Sen no Rikyu’s advise in the 16th century: simply boil water, make tea, and drink. This simple act, with mindfulness, can lead to spiritual and philosophical understanding.

In process, on my worktable. 
The process of making:

Since the lidded basket used for the shikishi-date chabako procedure has a sanada-himo (woven ribbon ) closure and is lined with brocade fabric, I took artistic license with this box and added a “cowboy” touch to the outside with a belt made with saddle string leather and brass stars to represent Texas.

The box originally had brass hinges and clasp, but I wanted the lid to lift off, so a flange was needed to hold the lid in place. And because the inside was very rough it seemed practical to use mat board covered in fabric to make the flange and finish the inside.

I was going to line the box with a red bandanna, but then I found cotton quilt fabric that looks "Western" but is actually stylized Far-Eastern motifs of umbrella, vase, peonies, etc. 

My husband helped me build a cedar wood mini-okiro to used instead of the usual binkake (small brazier) that holds an electric heater. It's 8" square x 7" high, lined with copper.

The blue enamel coffee pot is my cowboy testubin.  The metal gets too hot to hold, so I tied a leather knot on the lid and a red bandanna on the handle. Someday I'd like to trace the paisley pattern from 17th c. Kashmir shawl to the American cowboy bandanna of the 19th c.

After tea and sweets are served, the box is passed to the guests for a closer look. For a special surprise I included a postcard from the 1940s inside the lid. It illustrates a cowboy riding for the Pony Express Mail Delivery Service (circa 1850s).
I made the whisk tube of leather laced with waxed red cord, and lined with a plastic sheet to keep the whisk clean. Next to it is the glass boot that started it all.

The natsume (tea caddy) is natural wood. I made the chawan (teabowl) with dark stoneware clay and a shino glaze. The kobukusa (small folded napkin) is a woven stripe pattern with fringe ends that is reminiscent of a saddle blanket.

There are still a few more details to add, or refine, and I will post them later.  "Happy Trails to you..."

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tiny Tetsubin & New Chabako

A good friend gave me this tiny tetsubin (hot water kettle) for my birthday. It sparked the idea that I could make a miniature chabako to take in my purse and practice almost anywhere. 

Toy metal box is 2.25" high x 2" x 3".

Chabako set on my desk, with keyboard for scale.
It was fun to look around the house for materials. 

The 1.75" tall chasenkakego (inner tray) and kizue (hinged 4-part board) was made with yellow card-stock. The kobane (feather duster) is a piece of facial tissue and a toothpick. Small corks, and sections of a big bubble-tea straw covered with either a gold paper from my favorite chocolate bar, or maroon card-stock became the chasen & chakin zutsu and the natsume

Sew shifuku (brocade bags) for chawan, natsume & chashaku.
And, maybe make a bamboo chasen and natsume.

Top view after kakego is removed.
The Chawan is a sake cup, from same friend.

I hope you enjoyed this visual cup of tea!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Macrame Furidashi Bag

This is the macrame bag I made for my furidashi (jar for kompeito, hard candy). 

I used inexpensive Perle cotton thread before trying it in real silk. The cord is made by kumi-himo braiding. When I started this project, I imagined a purple sanada-himo cord on the gosho-bako (lidded basket), and this color was the best match to the purple fukusa (silk napkin), which I thought would work well.

However, when I looked for chirimen (crepe) silk to make the teabowl-bag and the small kobukusa, I could only find a red-brown-purple, called "Madder Brown" on the Pantone color chart. Since I had planned to make another bag with with silk thread anyway, I found a color that coordinates with my chirimen silk.
This is how I start to make the macrame bag. 

First, I found a tube the right diameter and covered it with a cotton batting cushion and then grid paper. The cotton batting allows me to use straight-pins to anchor the thread in line while the macrame knots are tied. The tube is on the neck of a wooden bottle, which gives it weight and stability. 

The bright red working-cord at the top will be replaced with a kumi-himo cord in the same color as the bag. 

Come back later for pictures of the finished bag.  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Two New Boxes!

Today's chabako hunt yields 2 more pieces!


First, I stopped by my favorite resale shop and found a wooden box to convert. The photo on the left is my "real" chabako sitting on top to compare the size. It won't be hard to take off the hinges and finish the inside.



I also finally found a clear plastic box that was designed with an inner removable frame for mini hanging-file for CD sleeves.

In the photo below, the frame is "pretending" to be the inner chabako tray. My plan is to glue a clear plastic bottom to the frame, if I can figure out how to cut a nice round hole to make room for the chasen tsu-tsu.

In these pictures I chose a cut-glass toothpick-holder from my sensei to be the chakin tsu-tsu, and a little glass bottle as a furidashi for sweets. 

I have been looking for a clear or silver tube for the chasen tsu-tsu, but the lacquer chasen-tsu-tsu and wooden hira natsume seem to balance the cold clear pieces. What do you think?  

Friday, August 31, 2012

Gosho-bako Progress

The last two months were very busy, my 65th birthday was yesterday, and tonight is a "Blue Moon" - time to post progress on making a gosho-bako so that I can begin to learn the Shikishi-date procedure.

The first step was to find a basket to convert into a goshobako. I finally found a vintage lady's straw purse in an antique mall, pictured here next to my chabako to show its relative size. The real gosho-bako are beautifully crafted baskets, but  this will be OK for my practice. Maybe someday I will have time to make a nicer basket.

Removing the zipper made the interior space a little too shallow, so I added a ring of upholstery trim in its place to increase the depth and give it a more finished appearance.

after zipper was removed, before trim was added
It was a challenge to duplicate the sanada-himo, ribbon tie. The closest I could find was "gimp" for trimming upholstery, but it did not look the same on both sides so I hand-stitched two layers back-to-back which also helped make it more substantial. The metal attachments are made from beading-supply parts I found at a craft store. I couldn't resist adding the little swallow [燕 Tsubame]

While I was looking for the the right ribbon, I made 4 kobukusa (silk napkins). The silk for 3 kobukusa came from a resale shop that receives donations of fabric samples. The plain chirimen silk from vintage kimono fabric was ordered online. I still need to make the chirimen silk bag for 2 nested chawan and the little cushion that goes between that is used instead of the brocade shifuku in the picture.

I had already made the macrame shifuku (drawstring bag) for the furidashi (sweets jar), but now I think that the purple looks too bright with the other things. I will make another that is closer to the color of the plain purple kobukusa, which looks rather brown in this photo, maybe with silk thread this time instead of Perle cotton.

The "ivory" chashaku (tea scoop) was lent by my tea sensei. It fits in the basket, but I think that a shorter one may be used for goshobako. 

red raku chawan
The other thing still missing is the chakin-bako which is a box with a lid that fits completely over it, 2" x 2" x 1.5" tall, made of either silver or lacquered wood. The chakin (wet linen cloth) is stored inside and the deep lid is turned upside down to rest the chasen (whisk) at an angle. It's hard to believe but I  have not been able to find that size box ... yet!  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Last week I helped my teacher with a chanoyu presentation at an art camp for grades 1-3 at a museum in San Antonio. It's a challenge to create a sense of tranquility in an unfamiliar place and in a short period of time.

We plan weeks in advance and make a check list to assure that we pack all the things necessary. Once we arrive at a location it takes over an hour to set up plus the same amount of time to carefully pack everything away.

This time we decided to do Wakei Chabako so that the children could see the "magic" of bringing all the pieces out of a small box to make a cup of tea. Instead of the contents in the picture, I used 2 nesting teabowls and a furidashi (sweets jar) that I made. I used lacquered pieces with a "koma" pattern of colored concentric rings, reminiscent of a child's toy spinning top. I will post a picture of that later.

my chabako set

Friday, June 22, 2012

I found a clear box that is pretty close to the correct chabako proportions, but the lid has a white edge so I didn't include it in this photo. Now I'm sure that I want to invest in a very nice clear box and will research having one made.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Omogashi, sweets for chanoyu

This is slightly off topic, but I want to describe what an enjoyable day I had yesterday. After we went out for lunch I made a quick and casual bonryaku tea at home for my friend so that we could share the beautiful omogashi, moist sweet, that another friend kindly brought back from her recent trip to Japan. Even though omogashi are usually served with koicha, thick tea, we enjoyed it with usucha.

It was hot outdoors.The sweets looked cool on the white plate that I made and the matcha looked refreshing through the clear glass chawan. It was a lovely, spontaneous, ichi-go ichi-e moment.

Then I visited my daughter and sweet 2 week old grandson. What a wonderful day!

Omogashi, moist sweets package

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Glass Chawan for Summer

chawan with chabako-size chasen & chashaku
This is the new double-walled glass chawan that I just acquired for the clear chabako set I'm collecting.

Glass is sometimes used to give a cool icy feeling in the hottest time of the summer. I'm still looking for a clear plastic or Lucite box to hold the clear utensils I have gathered so far. 

Using glass also represents the feeling of the fragility of each moment in the tea ritual, the sense of ichi-go ichi-e, that this meeting will never happen again in the same way and should be savored.

clear utensils for chabako

As the guest, it is interesting to see one's hand through the glass while drinking. It is reminiscent of the custom, before the tea gathering begins, of stopping at the tsukubai, stone water basin, in the roji, tea hut garden. Each person bends down to rinse both hands and then cup water into one hand to rinse their mouth with water. This act of cleansing in the  physical world reminds us to also clear our mental state and enter the tea hut with a pure heart. In this sense, glass utensils are also symbolic of clear water and purity as well as coolness. 


As the host, it is good to know that the double wall keeps the outside cool to the touch. The chawan needs to be held as a temmoku chawan when emptying the rinse water into the kensui (waste water bowl) since it does not have a distinct foot to grip.

Have a cool summer!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A new chabako

Eventually I would like to learn shikishi-date, the most advanced chabako procedure that employs a lidded basket instead of wooden box. Since I can't afford the beautiful sets offered online ($2000 USD), I have been collecting the parts, by adapting or making the things needed (See April 13, 2012 post).

It's difficult in the US to find boxes and baskets in the correct chabako proportions: 6" tall x 5.5 inches wide x 8.5" long, with walls thin enough that a 4.25" diameter teabowl will fit inside.

After many weeks of searching in antique shops, resale shops and online, I finally bought an affordable lidded basket listed as a Chinese lunch basket. Good news: it has great proportions and is in nice condition. Bad news: it has a large wooden handle, is not the desired dark brown color and lacks a brocade fabric lining.

My first thought was to cut the wooden handle off and stain it darker before lining it and adding the correct ribbon closure. However, it was not difficult to take the utensils out with the handle as it is, so I may use it for Unohana-date or Hana-date Chabako until I have the chance to learn the more advanced procedure. (Note, the cord on my brocade shifuku in the picture is not tied as it would be when being presented.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

This has been a week of searching for chabako utensils. A friend took me to an antique mall north of Austin that was a treasure trove!


I found two silver pieces for the travel coffee set that I am changing into a vertical chabako.

With a little research I came to conclusion that the 5" tall stainless steel bottle holder (below) was originally part of a men's travel shaving kit, so it seems appropriate for this masculine-looking travel case. The lid has a cork inside to hold the bottle-stopper in place. The stamp on the bottom says  SUCCESS <H&A> MADE IN U.S.A.  The 4" diameter bowl has a diamond shaped paper label E MALOX, NORWAY.  


Yesterday I found another glass boot, 3 1/4" tall,  slightly larger than the first one I found that initiated the idea for a "cowboy chabako". This boot has a more distinct cowboy design and chakin will fit into easier than the first one.

When I told my sister about my idea, she shared the vintage tin Stetson Hat box we've had since childhood. It isn't big enough for a chabako box, but I will find a way to incorporate it.

The blue enamel coffee pot is 8" tall and perfect size to fit on  brazier to heat water for tea. I think I might use the child-size beaded cowboy belt as a kimono obi-jime; and maybe make gingham or paisley print cotton kimono. I'll cut red bandana to correct size and back it with silk so that it will fold in a similar way to the standard all-silk fukusa.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.

Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.
Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It's the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here's a happy one for you. ...

Lyrics to "Happy Trails" by Dale Evans Rogers

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chabako Tea at Allerton Park

Chabako Tea at Allerton Park, Monticello, Illinois
On May 11, 2012

My sister and I went to Allerton Park to make chabako tea. It was perfect weather with little white clouds floating across a clear blue sky, birds singing, and grass so fresh and green that the whole scene seemed unreal. After living in Austin, I had forgotten how tall the trees are in central Illinois where the soil is deep and rich and there is plenty of water.

Back when I was in high school, there was a little spring hidden in a leafy a ravine that was off the main path between the mansion and the formal gardens.  One could wander down into the coolness and rinse hands in the little pool of water the size of a birdbath. I thought it would be nice to make tea there, but the site has been “upgraded” with a wooden footbridge that allows visitors to see but not disturb the tiny stream that trickles down to fill the pond that was created to reflect the  mansion.

We walked on up to the other side of the ravine to a small white trellis gazebo with a concrete bench. I brought out my travel chabako (see previous blog entry) and a thermos of hot water and made tea. 

After tea we strolled down the central alley of the formal garden to enjoy a collection of peonies, hosta, and  formal clipped hedges. 

How My Life in This Place 
Connects to My Interest in Chado

Monticello is a small farm town that is also a county seat with well-educated lawyers and teachers from a nearby major university. There were farmers who were in tune with the seasons and townspeople who worked together to create an orderly and harmonious place to raise their families.

As a child I recall passing through stately white pillars that led into a wide swath of a path cut into the woods. My parents took my and my little sister there to enjoy the fall color of trees in crisp autumn air. Coming upon the classic bronze centaur sculpture at the end of the path made reading fairy-tales even more vivid.

I also recall the magical time when I was about 12 years old and we 4H campers tramped across the road to gather and sing by candlelight in the grassy area guarded by 2 rows of large blue glazed ceramic fu dogs on high pedestals. 

Later, in high school, I won a scholarship to an art camp at the park. We slept in attic rooms of the mansion and spent our days in different areas of the garden sketching and painting the sculptures and landscape. It was much later that I realized just how very lucky I was to grow up in a small town of 3,500 people, and also experience a taste of European formal and informal gardens and sculpture, created by Robert Allerton amidst acres and acres of corn and bean fields.

Experiencing the contrast between formality and rusticity at an early age seems to continually resonate in my art work and approach to life in general. I find a similar sense of order, appreciation of and respect for tools and things made with them, and a deep connection with Nature in Chanoyu.