More texture!

Chris’s recent post about texture reminded me of this Japanese bowl that I have:


The bowl is extremely light in weight, which leads me to think that it is made from kiri (Royal Paulownia, Paulownia tomentosa). The finish is urushi, and I believe that it is tamenuri, which is “natural” urushi, without any dyes or pigments added.

The bowl is turned, and the surface texture is very rough, with substantial tear-out and other “defects.”

A view of the inside reveals what looks to have been an all-out assault with a scraper.


Here’s a close-up of an area with a lot of tear-out:


I find the bowl interesting, in that it appears as if its primary purpose is to highlight the limitations of our tools. The only place where the bowl deviates from that purpose is in its base, which is turned perfectly flat and smooth, like any other bowl.

– Steve Schafer

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9 Responses to More texture!

  1. Eric R says:

    Thanks Steve.

  2. Japanese bowls almost always have defects. This is not a sign of poor workmanship but rather a reminder that no one is perfect and the perfection is a path, not a destination

  3. allenhamilton2014ahamilton says:

    Ah. Grasshopper, you have glimpsed the ‘base-is’ of existence…

  4. paulobro says:

    A roughly made piece superbly finished.

    It invites many readings…

  5. toolnut says:

    It looks to me as if the artist was trying to mimic, in wood, a rough thrown clay bowl (which would have a smooth, flat bottom). It even looks like wet clay.

  6. wrduffield says:

    The inside of the bottom is finished with something called a “chatter tool” in the West. If you google it, you’ll find lots of pictures and info on how to make and use one. It’s designed specifically to do everything you don’t want your scraper to do.

  7. eldredma says:

    This bowl crystallizes a thought I’ve been nearing. “Texture” is intentional, but tear out, as is clear from the context of the surrounding surface, is not. Texture is not failure. However, perfection does not come in one form–glass smooth–either. Completely random events are beautiful; in fact, I would argue they are the basis of all natural beauty. Ray flake, abalone shell, tortoise shell, they are all beautiful, but they are certainly not perfect. When a craftsman learns to either highlight the natural beauty in a piece or has the skill to create natural beauty (as here), then she’s onto something. Thanks, Steve.

  8. Hank Cohen says:

    If it is paulownia (kiri 桐) then it must really be a master work. Kiri is only slightly harder than balsa so turning it on a lathe with any but the sharpest tools is likely to end in disaster. To be able to get the necessary roughness and limited tearout without destroying the bowl must have required a very sensitive touch and a perfectly tuned tool.

    Kiri is the preferred material for storing silk kimonos. Here’s a little promotional video about the product.
    And another that focuses more on the process
    Note the sophisticated work holding systems and hold-down tools. ;^)

    • steveschafer says:

      That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Paulownia’s Janka hardness (300) is more comparable to Eastern White Pine (380) than Balsa (90).

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