Not Your Average Cup of Tea – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Not Your Average Cup of Tea

If you look at mended Japanese ceramics, many of their repairs seem “instantly obvious,” says Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures James-Henry Holland. But the intricacies of this art form and the ceremonies in which they are involved are anything but plain to the untrained eye. Which is why Holland, a venerated scholar of Japanese language and culture, was one of three experts asked to write about the ceramics featured in “Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics,” a catalogue featuring the pieces of a new art exhibition at Cornell University. Unique in its subject matter, this is the first exhibit focused particularly on mended ceramics, most of which are originally from the Japanese tea ceremony. “The most important ceramic art in Japanese culture is tea ceremony items,” explains Holland. “The tea ceremony is an elaborate system of non-verbal communication; a non-competitive game of connoisseurship.” The exhibit’s “obviously” repaired pieces were mended with lacquer and highlighted in gold, red, or black. But Holland’s exposition looks below the surface. “My essay provides anthropological answers to two of the most important questions regarding mended Japanese ceramics: Why repair broken pieces? and, Why do so in such an obvious manner?” The exhibit featured in the catalogue is showing at Cornell University until Aug. 10, when it will show in Munster, Germany. Holland received his B.A. from Western Kentucky, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University. A member of the HWS faculty since 1994, he currently teaches Japanese in the Asian Languages and Cultures Department. He has also taught independent studies focused on Japanese ethnography, cuisine, the tea ceremony and ceramic art. Some of Holland’s additional areas of expertise include gift exchange, language and pedagogy, and folk religion.