A Box For Tea: Solitude, Presence & Ritual

Date: 2015
Methods & Tools: Hand-crafted ceramics (pinch pot method), Woodworking
Thesis Advisor: An Te Liu

I am interested in spaces that provide solitude from the frantic pace of contemporary life, and that promote a mindful awareness of a present state of being. I am attracted towards the aesthetics and philosophical values of wabi-sabi – that is, to put it very simply, an appreciation for the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete; in essence, an appreciation for nature.

My curiosity towards wabi-sabi led me to study the Japanese teahouse, a reclusive space in an urban setting that focuses the attention of those participating on the transience of the present moment. My interests have inspired me to design a tea space of my own, one that is transportable and that could transform any space into a space to enjoy a special moment, either in solitude or with company – a sort of emergency kit for slowing down and being mindful of the present.

The portable box contains the equipment for preparing, serving, and enjoying tea. It is disassembled in a prescribed order to create the place setting for a tea ritual. The walnut pieces, each featuring a depression unique to the shape of each item, act both to stabilize the box and to designate the placement of each unique object as the box is being disassembled. Each ceramic object was hand-made using the traditional pinch method, in which a ball of clay is methodically pinched into the shape of a vessel. This method was chosen for the tactile experience, as well as for the “imperfect” quality it might produce, in shape and in texture.

Once the tea has been prepared and served, and the objects thoroughly admired, the objects are re-assembled – again in a precise and careful sequence of actions that returns the tea set to its original form, ready to be transported and used again.