Drax wrote:Is there anything that determines when a mei might be given or done? For example, I thought the potter would have done so, but it does not appear so in this case...
In the world of super-exclusive tea items I know of a few cases. A maker might name his own piece when s/he's had a chance to examine the finished product. This is often the case when there's no hakogaki (box writing) by a third party, in which case the maker writes on the box the type of material (style of pottery, for example), the mei, the type of item (chashaku, for instance), and his or her own name. Or a maker or owner might ask the iemoto of a tea school or a Zen monk to name a particularly fine piece. This is what the kids are nowadays calling a "pretty big ask," as I understand it, because the namer is in effect certifying that particular piece, literally putting his (usually his) stamp on it (or at least on its box), and also substantially increasing its potential resale value. This certification (hakogaki) might or might not involve actual naming, and I have heard of dealers having the iemoto of more than one school certify an item, each time on a separate box, because some practitioners will only buy items relating to their own tradition of tea. It's all a bit of a murky business.
Back in the real world, items are often named when there seems to be some reason to do so. For example, my teacher has a previously unnamed chashaku that was left to her by her own teacher on his death, which she gave a mei that reminds her of him. Or, in more prosaic terms, an item might be given a name precisely because it's going to be used at a formal tea gathering and the host knows that s/he will be asked about it.
My view is that we're free to name our own stuff as we see fit. As with everything else in tea ceremony, though, this only represents one point of view; there are doubtless some practitioners who would say that only someone very high ranking should name a tea item. I'd counter that there are untold numbers of named tea implements floating around out there which have no record of who they were named by, so do with all that what you will.
Potters don't generally name every single item they produce. As to why a $6000--and therefore apparently very special--chawan might not be named, there could be any number of reasons. Most cynically, one might consider that by not naming such a valuable item the maker assures that the purchaser can increase its potential value further and faster by asking someone famous to name it and do hakogaki--not an unreasonable guess, perhaps, given that someone willing and able to spend $6000 on a tea bowl is likely to also be high up in the tea world and therefore in a position to ask such a thing. Or, more poetically, it could merely be a case of allowing the purchaser the pleasure of naming it herself. In either case, I would assume that such an important chawan would inevitably end up with a name, at least if it was purchased by someone who actually intended to use it.