Monday, December 27, 2010

Qingbai 'lotus' tea set by David Louveau de la Guigneraye

The idea of this tea set started in the summer 2009. During my visit in France, I stayed several days with David Louveau. He's a French potter who learned his craft with Japanese and Korean masters. What is remarkable is how natural his work is. He tries to use as little modern technique as possible. His philosophy is a good match with how my ideal teaware should be made. So, we discussed and exchanged ideas how to create teaware for specific teas. In early 2010, he sent me a first set in cracked white for shu puerh.

For the second set, I wanted a celadon color close to the Tang dynasty secret color. The Tang scholar Lu Yu favored such celadon, because it enhanced the color of the tea and had a color 'fine like jade'.

After using this set in an art gallery, I'm glad to show you his Qingbai (light celadon) 'lotus' tea set. It took David Louveau several months of tests to achieve this light turquoise color. I feel it already comes very close to Lu Yu's recommended ware. And the glaze only contains natural components: kaolin, feldspar, lime and talc.

For the clay David uses a mix of 90% rough Spanish kaolin and 10% purple clay from La Borne. These ingredients are naturally rich in iron and will retain the heat of boiling water well.

For the shape, we decided to find our inspiration in past Chinese teaware, when China was producing its finest potteries (Tang to Ming dynasties). These were golden time for tea, as it was one of the most appreciated entertainment at the imperial court.

The Bowl, inspired by a Northern Sung celadon.

Mouth: 14 cm in diameter
Height: 6 cm
Base: 6.5 cm
Weight: 330 grams

5 incisions with a sharp knife produce the shape of 5 lotus petals. The lotus petal pattern became very popular during the Yuan dynasy. Its simplicity and beauty brings a sense of calm and spirituality. This is why we chose this pattern for this tea set.

The cup on its stand (Yuan dynasty inspiration)

Mouth: 7 cm in diameter
Total Height: 6 cm
Normal Volume: 3 cl
Weight: 70 gr for cup, 140 gr for the Cha Tuo

For this set, David Louveau and I decided to glaze each piece twice. (In ancient times, the thick Longquan celadons ware glazed up to 5-6 times). This produces a thicker and therefore smoother surface. This involves more work and handling, because each item must be fired 3 times: once without glaze and twice with glaze.

The taste of the tea feels very different, calmer and more harmonious, compared to industrial porcelain. It best fits sheng puerh and then roasted Oolong.

The Tea Boat (Cha Chuan with teapot stand) with lotus petals pattern

Mouth: 18 cm diameter
Height: 4 cm
Weight: 485 grams

The set was fired in David Louveau's gas oven at a temperature of 1300 degrees Celcius (2372 degrees Farhrenheit). This way, the color remains even for all the items (and it helps to keep the cost down compared with a wood firing).

The tea jar, inspired by a Ming dynasty jar.

Height: 8 cm
Max diameter: 8 cm
Weight: 300 gr

The inside and the bottom of the jar are glazed. There is a slight porosity that helps reduce the edge of roasting. A few days of storage are enough to make a difference with Oolong. For long term use, it's best to use it with sheng puerh.

Conclusion: This Qingbai tea set is deeply rooted in China's tea history. Each handmade piece has some imperfections that add to their soul and beauty. So far in my tests, it works perfectly with my wild young sheng puerhs.

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