Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tea Table Wabi Sabi

This inexpensive tea table is like many others in China. It was likely manufactured piece by piece using the cheapest means, by the cheapest Chinese labourers. Labourers that work in hot unairconditioned workshops and that are probably paid less in a month than some people make in an hour. The factory likely churns out hundreds of these small wood tables everyday. The trademarked emblem that is pressed into the wood suggest the normality of such a table.

Despite these commonalities, this table is like no other. Because it is made up of wood it is always alive. Wood, unlike most materials, was once a living creature. When the wood is stripped away from the tree it continues to live on. In this case, it lives on as a tea table.

It breathes. As the wood is exposed to humidity or lack thereof, it grows, expands, twists, and moves. Over time its outer form changes. Wood tea tables are especially alive. They are under constant exposure to water and the resulting humidity.

This table is alive.

It has been in use almost daily for the last year and over this time it has changed. It has developed unique stains and marks that have given it more a sense of identity than the trademarked emblem ever had. There is natural beauty in each blemish.

Throughout its use it has also cracked. The water and tea have found their way into the wood causing it to expand. After a long period of use with many good tea sessions, it began to rot. Even as it rotted its beauty could be seen.

Now unrepairable cracks have developed, it cannot hold water. Its function is lost in its beauty.

Although a new tea table will replace this one, this one will never be replaced. Perhaps one will use it for a flower pot, in this way it will continue to nurture life. Or, perhaps one will bring it out once in a while, on rainy days, its leaking puddles mirroring nature outside.

Either way it's time for a new tea table...



Salsero said...

Wow, thanks for these thoughts on tea tables and for the photos of yours.

Matt said...


Thanks for your time, attention, and ongoing feedback.


Lewis said...

I just got my first tea table recently and I tend to be over-diligent about keeping it dry. That second photo makes me want to let it be alive and expand and do its own thing. Great post.

Lewis said...

Correction: second, third, and fourth photos.

Anonymous said...

Very wabisabi. Nice story.

Matt said...

One is glad those photos, thoughts, and words spoke to you.

Lyn Bishop,
One clicked on your blogger profile (one highly recommends that you do this!!!) and was taken aback by your art and blog. One enjoyed the piece about starting an art collection.

In many ways the words 'tea' or 'teaware' can replace the word art.

Readers please check this link out and see if what is true for collecting art is true about purchasing/collecting tea or teaware.


Space Samurai said...

Wow. You made that look really sexy.

Matt said...



Noica X said...

i'm a new reader of your blog, only a few months, but I've only just stumbled upon this post tonight....
this is the most beautiful narration i have ever read about either a table or a piece of wood....not that i have read a lot of them in my life...but that's beside the point.
i'm in the process of finding the right table that in return chooses me too, so i can say i'm quite emotional about it, but i don't think i've ever felt such romance until this...

thank you for this Matt!

Matt said...

Noica X,

It is always a good idea to take a few tea tables out on dates before you decide to go steady with one. Hahaha

Joking aside, just finished reading this post- first time in a long time. It got one thinking about the differences in energy between a ceramic table and a wood tea table...

Thank you for allowing one to reflect.