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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Beauty in old kettles

By YIP YOKE TENG


One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, the case of Japanese cast iron kettles or tetsubin is one good example.

Yet it often takes time for a man to see the beauty in something and these kettles have waited for about half a century.

Nevertheless, the tableware created during or before World War II have proven that they can withstand the test of time. They are aesthetically stunning, and are still functional.

Despite having high artistic qualities due to the unique design and exquisite craftsmanship, these kettles were shoved in the corners, left to rust or even discarded as they used to be so common that almost every household had one.


Quaint: The Japanese cast iron kettles on display at Purple Cane Tea Square at Shaw Parade, Changkat Thambi Dollah, off Jalan Pudu.

About two years ago, a group of Taiwanese collectors came across these hidden treasures and started selling what they found to tea lovers and antique collectors.

In no time, the kettles became all the rage on the island and the wave swept China, too.

Now, the kettles can fetch between RM1,000 and RM5,000 while the ones made by famous artisans are sold from RM5,000 to RM10,000.

A rare collection of Kyoto tetsubin have been brought into Malaysia for the first time and are on display at Purple Cane Tea Square, Shaw Parade shopping centre, Pudu, until tomorrow.

The kettles are at least 40 years old, some up to 100 years.

“There are two main types of tetsubin, the Nambu and the Kyoto tetsubin. They, especially the latter, are gems from a bygone era,” said Purple Cane Holdings tea art director Camellia Siow.


Pleasant experience: Siow pouring tea while explaining the exquisiteness of Japanese cast iron kettles.

“Only a handful of old artisans know the skill to make Kyoto tetsubin now, and their works are sold at astronomical prices. On the other hand, the Nambu tetsubin that require a less elaborate making process are relatively easily available,” she added.

One cannot help but admire the Japanese’s innate meticulousness when looking at these kettles.

Even though they were only made as an object to heat water, the intricacy of the shape, design and embellishment was not at all compromised.

Exquisite carvings, embossed ornamentations and silver inlays are testaments to that.

Other interesting facts about these kettles are that the lids are often made with copper to help disperse heat, and that the spouts are always facing right with design details focusing on the right side of the kettle surface.

The knob on the lid is made with great detail, too. Sculpted into the shapes of flower and seed to complement the appearance, most of the knobs can be twiddled. Some kettles have knobs made of silver, or even gold.

A number of the kettles come with a “rattling chip” €” a floral shaped embossment on the bottom of the utensil €” which produces sound to indicate different degree of boiling.


Elaborate: The spout of a tetsubin should always face right, therefore design details concentrate on the right side of the kettle
Starfruit, eggplant and even cottage are some of the many unconventional designs of the Kyoto tetsubin, an example of the Japanese’s respect for nature and little things in lives.

The rich history, and the fact that these kettles are still in perfect condition make them even more precious.

“Tetsubin offers a different pleasant experience to savouring tea,” Siow noted.

“As compared to clay pots, water boiled with tetsubin gives the tea a stronger taste on the palate while retaining a soft and smooth texture. It also has a heavier aftertaste and hence fancied by male tea drinkers,” she added.

According to her, the effect is a result of the kettles’ minerals that are beneficial to one’s health. It was hence widely used by the Japanese women in that era to prevent miscarriage.

Tetsubin can be passed down the generations if they are kept with care, in spite of oxidation that erodes the metal. “If you taste rust in the water, use the tetsubin to boil water repeatedly until the water does not taste rusty. Do this whenever necessary and the tetsubin will be able to last for decades,” she said.

Purple Cane Tea Square is located at Lot L1-01, 1st Floor, Shaw Parade, Changkat Thambi Dollah, off Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur. It can be reached at 03-2145 1200.

Source of news & Picture : The Star Online dated 18/10/2008 (www.thestar.com.my)

1 comment:

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發問時間: 2008-10-07 06:59:19 ( 還有 1 天發問到期 )
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