[Tray for the inner storage box of the tea-leaf storage jar named Chigusa, with ornamental cords and storage envelopes Courtesy Freer Gallery of Art.]
[Chigusa, with mouth cover, securing cord, and net bag Courtesy Freer Gallery of Art.]
Actually, there is a Japanese silk net as well as the ornamental cord. Both were used by the Japanese during the 16th century to elevate a humble Chinese tea-leaf storage jar known poetically as Chigusa, or myriad things. The attention given to this rustic pot was all a part of the Japanese approach to celebrating sometimes flawed, quotidian things, particularly objects used in the tea ritual. Obsessive tea men, as scholars call them, even wrote down their close observations of Chigusa in diaries.
This fascination will be the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Freer Gallery on February 22, Chigusa and the Art of Tea. Curators have designated part of the exhibition space to be used as a Japanese tea room, recreated with attention to detail including tatami mats. Also look for tea culture accouterment such as Japanese stoneware water jars and wooden vessels, calligraphy by Chinese monks, and Chinese and Korean tea bowls. Apart from the exploration of Asian design and Japanese tea culture, though, I think the show offers an opportunity to contemplate utilitarian beauty in general.
Along those lines, Hidden Heroes. The Genius of Everyday Things is coming to the Museum of Design Atlanta, scheduled to be on view February 23 through May 11, 2014. This exhibition delves into pencils, paperclips -- 36 functional, brilliantly designed pieces in total -- that have altered human existence.