joan schwartz

visual artist, dancer, writer, designer

the tea bowl project

Between April 2012 and February 2013 I produced a series of tea bowls, small ceramic bowls inspired by those used in the Japanese tea ceremony. Each was unique in shape and glaze, and meant to feel good when held in the hands. Each week I took one of the finished bowls and went in search of someone to give it to — someone I didn’t know. In return I asked to take a photograph of the person’s hands holding the bowl. My intention was to break through the barrier that separates us on the street, offer a gift to a stranger, and have some conversation — to truly encounter someone new each week. When I returned home, I printed the photograph, wrote about our meeting, and posted it on a blog (

In February 2013 I had the opportunity to extend the project as part of E/merge, an interdisciplinary arts residency at Earthdance in Cummington, MA. I printed the images of hands and bowls onto fabric, and strung them, like Tibetan prayer flags. These defined a space where 19 people joined me for tea and conversation, choosing a tea bowl that they took home with them.

Again, in September 2013, as part of JP Open Studios, I strung the flags between trees in the garden of Loring Greenough House and invited people for tea. Over two days I had tea and conversation with 63 people, each leaving with a tea bowl.

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