STANDART ISSUE 25

CREDITS
Words: Thomas Wensma
Publication: Standart magazine Issue 25 Arabesques, alkalinity, and coffee
Published: December 2021 


Hakuji: A Quiet, Very Japanese Refinement [Excerpt]

Artisans who devote themselves to hakuji — a form of white porcelain that is especially popular in Japan — produce objects so exquisite and beautiful that it is hard not to be enthralled by their grace. The shapes of hakuji pieces are effortlessly carved, trimmed and polished by the hands of artisans, who shape and refine the material in fluent harmony with a few simple tools and the experience acquired by several decades dedicated to their craft.
 
The intense whiteness, gentle curves, and subdued gloss of hakuji pieces are profound in their beauty and a striking example of Japanese simplicity. Their lines are smooth and soft, and they become beautifully translucent when held up to the light, as if the materials and tints are reflecting the essence of Shintoism, the Japanese religion that exalts harmony with nature. When hot coffee is poured into a hakuji cup or bowl, the movement of the dark liquid viewed through transparent white porcelain makes this glorious drinking vessel almost come to life, and when privileged to drink coffee in this way, I am overcome by the quiet refinement of the whole experience. The delicacy, thoroughness, precision, and simplicity — to me, that is the essence of Japanese aesthetics: Rooted in an appreciation for nature and humans, and the point of connections between the two.

I have always been fascinated by Japanese culture, and especially by Japanese design. Luckily enough, we regularly ate traditional Japanese cuisine when I was growing up, and for many years I loved among the Japanese products at my family home — futons, porcelain, kitchenware, a table lamp, and a few other items. Even then I remember observing in them a quality that transcended the other products to which I had access. Everyday Japanese products seemed to be easy to use and long-lasting, their aesthetics were balanced, simple, and refined, and they were made with natural materials that were pleasant to the touch.