Creating “Tea at Sunset”

by Michael on October 24, 2012


I recently came across this image of the setting sun:

(When I first saw it, it had a 747 streaking across Old Sol, but a dear friend was kind enough to obliterate that obstruction.)

I also recently saw a sunset where the sun appeared to be a  flaming orb,  just about to sink beneath the horizon and taking on a slightly squashed look. There was a single, wispy cloud above it that was tinged with what looked like molten gold. I decided to see if I could capture some of the feeling of these various solar images in a tea pot, so that a viewer of  the piece would be put in mind of moving sunsets he or she had seen.


I began by gluing up maple to achieve the dimensions I needed, being careful to orient the grain of both pieces in the same direction.



I pondered the final shape a lot while I worked:  too round and it would look artificial; too flat and it would look like a basketball in need of air. I was seeking that same, subtly out-of-round shape the sun gets just as it’s about to touch the horizon.


I next hollowed the interior. (Some people insist on hollowing a form from only one opening. I did not feel the need to do so in this case, as the piece would be painted.)


The piece was then given a good coating of shellac to help seal the grain and any open pores.  Once the shellac was sanded, I had as smooth a surface as possible to being the finishing process.


I then painted the piece using the ancient Wakasa Nuri technique, which originated in the Obama province of Japan. Many layers of paint are applied and then sanded back strategically to reveal the black and gold below.  This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of the technique…..knowing when to stop removing paint. It’s all about balance.


The handle was made using a spoke shave to create a round profile. It was soaked in water for several hours and then put in the simple jig to obtain the proper curvature.



Lastly, I gilded the finial using 23k gold leaf.


Overall, I was pleased with the piece and felt I had obtained my goals. It will, however, not be the last time I deal with the notion of sunset, or sunrise for that matter.  They are times of day that bewitch me and are of supreme importance to the Japanese sensibility toward nature. Following in the tradition of Japanese block-print artists,  it is my plan to create an opus of 36 pieces which is to be titled, “36 Phases of the Sun and Moon”.


This piece, along with two others, Afterglow and Midnight, will be featured in the del Mano Gallery exhibition, Hot Tea!





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