The tea ceremony as we know it originated in 16th-century Japan, and at its heart was the chawan or teabowl.

Today, among potters working in the vessel tradition, the teabowl is considered arguably the most iconic form in the ceramic vocabulary.

This exhibition focuses on contemporary teabowls by leading makers in both East and West.

James Fordham, director of Oxford Ceramics Gallery, says: “We are very excited to be introducing some outstanding makers from Japan and the USA, as well as familiar and new faces from the UK and Europe.

“The range of interpretations of the teabowl theme is quite remarkable.”

The exhibition opens with a group of teabowls by some of Japan’s most acclaimed potters, including a rare salt-glazed chawan by Living National Treasure Tatsuzo Shimaoka, several of Ryoji Koie’s fresh, intuitive pieces and examples of Niisato Akio’s precise, finely thrown porcelain teabowls.

Among the most spontaneous and dynamic pieces on show are those of Akira Satake, a Japanese potter living in the USA, showing at Oxford Ceramics for the first time.

Satake’s smoke-fired chawan are wonderfully free and tactile.

The unglazed areas take their subtle colour and markings from the wood ash in the kiln, which melts during firing, and Satake often adds splashes of white shino or green oribe glaze.

The same spontaneity can be seen in the work of Danish potter Hans Vangso, who delights in thick volcanic glazes on his direct, often faceted vessels.

In contrast, potter Sun Kim’s thrown and altered teabowls are precise and softly geometric - an investigation into form, shape and volume.

She is fascinated by “the way in which everyday objects can influence our cultural habits and create a relationship in someone’s life”.

Form is also at the heart of Dutch ceramist Wouter Dam’s conceptual teabowl sculpture, with spiralling ribbons of clay carrying aloft two small rounded bowls.

The bold, fluently painted teabowls of UK potter Barry Stedman add an explosion of colour to the show, as do American Branan Mercer’s vessels, with their trademark dripping glazes.

Teabowls 2016 provides a wonderful opportunity to see the work of some 40 makers from all parts of the world under one roof, and to wonder at the extraordinary variety of their approaches to the teabowl.

James Fordham adds: “Traditionally the chawan or teabowl was a central part of the Japanese tea ceremony, but today potters all over the world like to include teabowls in their repertoire.

“The aim of this exhibition is to illustrate the incredibly diverse ways in which different potters approach this modest vessel form.

The show ranges from the wonderfully spontaneous chawan of Japanese potters Shozo Michikawa, Ryoji Koie and Akira Satake to Western interpretations such as Barry Stedman’s bold, brightly coloured teabowls and Hans Vangso’s rugged, thickly glazed vessels.

Most unexpected, perhaps, is Wouter Dam’s spectacular sculptural piece made for the occasion, with two rounded teabowls floating on fluid ribbons of clay.

“We are very excited to be showing such a broad range of leading international potters – more than 50 makers in total – here in Oxford.”

“Since the gallery opened in 2011 we have staged more than 40 exhibitions featuring a fantastic range of ceramics, from 20th century potters such as Bernard Leach and Lucie Rie to contemporary ceramists including Oxford’s Margaret O’Rorke and Dylan Bowen.”