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Distributed for Reaktion Books

The Grain of the Clay

Reflections on Ceramics and the Art of Collecting

Distributed for Reaktion Books

The Grain of the Clay

Reflections on Ceramics and the Art of Collecting

Ceramics give pleasure to our everyday lives, from the beauty of a vase’s elegant curves to the joy of a meal served upon a fine platter. Ceramics originate in a direct engagement with the earth and maintain a unique place in the history of the arts. In this book, Allen S. Weiss sharpens our perception of and increases our appreciation for ceramics, all the while providing a critical examination of how and why we collect them.
            Weiss examines the vast stylistic range of ceramics and investigates both the theoretical and personal reasons for viewing, using, and collecting them. Relating ceramics to other arts and practices—especially those surrounding food—he explores their different uses such as in the celebrated tea ceremony of Japan. Most notably, he considers how works previously viewed as crafts have found their rightful way into museums, as well as how this new-found engagement with finely wrought natural materials may foster an increased ecological sensitivity. The result is a wide-ranging and sensitive look at a crucial part of our material culture.

224 pages | 60 color plates | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2016

Art: Art--General Studies

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“Weiss himself is a genuine aficionado. He writes with knowledge and enthusiasm about many aspects of Japanese aesthetics, from its core principles of seasonality, sensuality, and ‘equilibrium of disequilibrium’ to regional ‘clay flavors’ (tsuchi-aji) that he interestingly compares to the notion of terroir in French wines. This book will gratify those who share Weiss’s sensibilities.”


“The book is an engaging exploration of the meaning and practice of collecting through Weiss’s own personal relationship with Japanese ceramics. It provides a critical examination of how and why we collect, encouraging us to deepen our appreciation of the art of ceramic objects.”

Ceramic Review

“In a book both well-written and highly descriptive, the author transcends the object, the guinomi (a small ceramic sake cup), to question its relationship to all its surroundings. The guinomi comes to represent art and nature. . . . I highly recommend this book to those interested in collecting, ceramics, or seeking insight into an art collector’s world.”

Kyoto Journal

“Weiss urges readers to make collections part of their lives. . . . Collections tell us more about owners, institutions, and even governments than the objects themselves, their acquisition reflecting everything from discerning taste and refinement to venality. This book gives us the chance to ponder all these things—to make an orderly collection of our thoughts.”

Japan Times

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