New Acquisitions: 2016
This cast iron kettle bristles with energy. Hung over an open hearth, it would have been the centerpiece of the reception room in a Japanese village headman’s spacious home. It could dominate a gallery.
The pebbled surface pattern is called “demon hailstone” (oni arare), an assertively outsized version of arare (hailstone). Paired with animal-face lugs, which hint at distant Chinese models, arare was the classic pattern on kettles used in the tearoom from the sixteenth century onward.
The artist Munakata Shikō, whose self-portrait is in the Sackler collection, owned a modern oni arare kettle. In spring 1953, he used the vessel in an experimental tea gathering convened in his atelier.1 He paired the kettle with other utensils and artwork that reflect his close friendships with participants and mentors in the Folk Craft Movement. For the occasion, he installed an improvised display alcove with calligraphy by Suzuki Daisetz, an authority on Zen Buddhism, and a wooden image of the Buddha by the monk Mokujiki Shonin. Woodworker Kuroda Tatsuaki made a tea container and scoop. Bowls by potters Kawai Kanjiro and Hamada Shōji complemented the main tea bowl, an antique Korean Ido piece. Munakata’s guests surely smiled at the pairing of this prestigious Korean bowl with the rustic “demon hailstone” kettle—and that probably was his point.
1 Kawai Kanjiro and Munakata Shiko, Chiba City Art Museum, 2016, p. 245.