Today I would like to introduce a very talented ceramist, Yesha Macdonald. Yesha is based in Melbourne, Australia and is the maker behind some of the beautifully crafted teawares on The Steepery Tea Co. We feel privileged to share some of Yesha's pieces with you and we wanted to find out a bit more about about how the world of tea and her work interact.
- How did your journey in ceramics commence?
I have a background in graphic design and creative studio management, however having worked with clay a few times as a child and in my teens, my fascination with ceramics stayed with me over the years and I craved working with my hands. This led me to make a trip to enchanting Japan to finally immerse myself fully into learning this beautiful art form straight from a Japanese pottery master.
- Many of your pieces are focused around the preparation, serving and enjoyment of tea. How do tea and your work tie together?
I’ve enjoyed tea for most of my life - a milky version prepared by mum in my younger years, I went to boarding school amongst the tea gardens of the Nilgiri hills in India and my husband’s family also happened to be in the tea business in the hills of Darjeeling coincidentally. Moving to Australia, my world was opened up to tea varieties from the rest of Asia and my first trip to Japan secured my love for Japanese tea and its culture. Because tea has been a big part of my life, I feel it reflects in my work naturally.
- What have been the biggest influences in your work to date?
The culture of tea and the spiritual aspects infused in it play a big part in the conscious way that I like to work. I appreciate how tea preparation and the creation of ceramics harmonises life with nature - whilst bringing people together or encouraging quiet spiritual contemplation.
Apart from tea culture, my work is also influenced by Japanese concept of wabi-sabi which is essentially embracing beauty in imperfection and simplicity. It reminds us to nurture all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: “nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect”.
- Do you have a favourite tea and how do you prepare it?
It’s hard to pick one, so I’ll go with two if that’s okay! Japanese matcha and Indian masala chai.
Both the recipes below serve one.
I prepare this the way my Sensei’s 76 year old mum taught me how in Japan.
- To your chawan (tea bowl), add 1.5 chashaku (bamboo scoop) matcha powder.
- Add a little bit of hot water and blend the matcha using a chasen (bamboo whisk) removing lumps and creating a thin paste.
- Next add about 1/3 cup of hot water and start whisking vigorously in a zigzag motion, using a light, feather touch without touching the bottom of the bowl to create that lovely froth on the surface.
- I love my matcha accompanied with Japanese mochi sweets such as “daifuku."
The slight bitterness of the matcha goes beautifully with a pillowy soft piece of sweet daifuku. There are few things in life that I enjoy more than this combination especially on a chilly day.
INDIAN MASALA CHAI (Spiced tea):
There are numerous ways to prepare masala chai, this quick and easy method below is my favourite.
- Using a mortar and pestle, roughly crush 1/4 inch piece of fresh ginger, 1 green cardamom pod, 1 whole clove, 1/4 cinnamon stick, grated nutmeg, 1 peppercorn (the last four ingredients are optional).
- Heat 1.5 cups of water in a saucepan, add the ginger + spice mixture and bring this to the boil.
- Once you see the water boil, add 1.5 teaspoons of black tea and let it boil for about 20 seconds.
- Next add a dash of milk (about 1/4 cup), I do this by eye as I prefer a rich colour to the chai as opposed to it being too milky. Add sugar / sweetener to taste.
Traditionally served in a chai glass or a small clay pot. I like to serve my chai with the traditional Indian "khari” - a light, savoury, flaky puff pastry that I think goes well with the sweetly spiced tea.
- What is the most beloved tea ware item you own and why?
The first chawan (tea bowl) I ever made under the watchful guidance of my Sensei in Japan. It is special to me as it was a collaborative effort - made by my shaky, unsure hands, then trimmed, glazed and fired by my Sensei.
A number of Yesha’s beautiful teawares are available at The Steepery Tea Co. If you would like to have a look at Yesha’s broader collection of work please also visit her website.
* Photo’s courtesy of Yesha Macdonald.