After recently delving into the extraordinary biography of the artist Otagaki Rengetsu, Beth Anderson fell in love with this tea set. Initially working from photographs, being able to set eyes on this tea set was a truly exciting and rewarding moment. The minuteness of the teapot was the biggest surprise of all, far more tiny than envisioned. And then the surprise of the glaze; as the light bounces around inside the tea bowls, the tea set really comes to life.
The pieces are far more delicate and finely crafted than a first glimpse may indicate. Individually hand moulded, they are packed with character and each little vessel is engraved with a poem, inscribed in Japanese script. The poems offer a plethora of Rengetsu’s personal stories, experiences, encounters with the natural landscape, of her pilgrimages in the path of Buddha, and of famous Japanese legends. In their physicality, the poems are as brief as the tea set is tiny, but in impact and imagination they are far, far greater.