From tea time in England to the tea ceremony in Japan, the teapot has been a widely recognized form in cultures both east and west. These artists have taken that basic form and experimented in broad ways while still offering the “viewer” the chance to identify the final product as a teapot. Pour yourself a cup of Earl Grey and take a look.
Bright colors, interesting textures, and a touch of whimsy adorn the teapots of Beverly Saito. Whether “enshrining” a jumble of teacups and saucers or a table setting or adorned with floating geometric shapes, Saito’s teapots are a visual treat: “I like the idea of teapots as sculptural objects. Once you don’t have to deal with the functionality of a teapot and don’t have to stick with the fact that it has to pour tea, you can do anything you want with it.”
Although she’s semi-retired, Saito still enjoys her exploration of the teapot form: “I love to incorporate as many textural surfaces and color contrasts without going overboard. I suppose some of that is that I started out as a painteralthough painting on ceramic is very different than painting on canvas. Because my teapots are nonfunctional, I can paint accents on them with metallic enamel so they look like they have metal hardware even though they are 100 percent ceramic.” She makes one group of decorative teapots annually, in part to respond to demand for her creations, sometimes doing a variation of a theme she may have. Saito does make some functional, wood-fired teapots: “Wood firing is my hobby. I go to a kiln in Oregon twice a year and do a lot of experimenting.”
Saito’s work can be found at the Cherry Creek Art Festival in Colorado and the annual “Teapot Show” at Alianzia Gallery in Boston.
Patrick Horsley loves the process and “physical dance” of making teapots: “The teapot is such a great form: it’s very abstract and you can do a lot of things with it. And yet, people look at your finished piece and always know, ‘That’s a teapot.’”
Horsley throws each teapot on the wheel, flattens it off, and cuts it into two parts. Then he starts reassembling it, resulting in a strong, almost-architectural profile. His technique grew out of one casserole dish he made over 25 years ago: “As I was making the casserole lids oval and fitting them to the casserole, the idea for teapots emerged. The casserole lid turned into the shoulder of a teapot. I use a hollow extruder to make the spouts, lay them out to get their shape, and then build up around them so they blend into the teapot.”
While most of Horsley’s teapots are 18” to 22”, he began work on a smaller version about a year ago: “It seems to take forever to get a new design going. For a long time I wanted to change the larger teapot but I didn’t want to force it. These are rounder with a tall neck and a smaller spout. I’m just now making them more regularly and am putting different glazes on them.”
Horsley takes orders at the American Craft Council show in February; other galleries are listed on his website www.patrickhorsley.com.
Incorporating a range of soft, pastel hues and rich textural variety, Gina Freuen pieces teapots together the way she used to sew her own clothes: “My teapots are very figurative. The complexity of the parts is very rewarding. There is such dynamic between the spouts, handles, and lids. I’m never bored with teapots.”
Although she would call herself a minimalist when it comes to color, Freuen utilizes subtle colors in a palate more “comfortable” with the white clay used in her teapots: “If I could, I would leave each piece at the leather hard stagewhen the teapot is still truly alive and the water hasn’t evaporated yetand never glaze it. Building is the part I like best.”
Freuen looks for textures that direct the eyes in and around her 18-24” teapotsfiller textures with linear information to place horizontally or vertically: “I really do look at each teapot as a composition. I like geometric texturescircles, squares, stripes, triangles. I try to stay away from very recognizable patterns like lace. I sometimes use different pieces of cardboard, mesh, or even masonite with holes.”
Growing up with an artist for a mother, her work teaching composition to art students at Gonzaga University, and even her skill at running the annual Inland Craft Warnings show in Spokane blend together to give Freuen a unique perspective as she crafts together fun and fantasy, sculpture and function into teapots that truly “fit her fancy.”
Freuen’s teapots are available at Art Spirit Gallery of Fine Art, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Northwest Craft Center, Seattle, Wash.; Earthworks Galleries, LaConner and Port Townsend, Wash.
Even the names of Michael Lambert’s teapots make you smile: Be-Bop Pot, Struttin’ Tea Pot, Valentino Tea Pot, Dancing Teapot, Java Jig. Full of life, Lambert’s teapots look as though they’re going to walk, dance, and jive right off the table. Lambert has been capturing this playful energy in his teapots since he made the first one 15 years ago: “I’d thrown work on the wheel for many years. When I started doing casting work, I made one teapot with a little bounce in it. The next time, it had more movement. But they never exactly have a human form.”
“When I first started doing work for the American Craft Council shows, a lot of people said my pieces were very Art Deco. I didn’t even know what that was at the time,” Lambert says. He takes his inspirations from something he’s seen or even something he just “missed seeing” and always works from sketches: “I’m a very two-dimensional person. I do lots of drawings before I start; if I don’t, I get ‘lost’ in the clay.”
Every year, Lambert adds new glazes and designs, keeping the most successful pieces going. He remains enamored of teapots: “The teapot lends itself to humor. And the great thing about teapots is that I almost always make a seta teapot and a sugar and creamer. That allows the pieces to dance around and interact in different ways.”
Look for Lambert’s work at Made In Santa Cruz and The Real Mother Goose, Portland, Ore.
The lure of teapots enveloped David Gignac about three years after he was out of college: “I was working on other people’s works, figuring out what I wanted to do because there was in infinite number of things to explore and to be excited about. But I always liked the teapot form. Its asymmetry makes it interesting. I like that it serves a purposea spouted vessel, a deliverer of liquids. And while I’d been working in glass, I had all the tools for metalworking at that time. So I just picked up on how much I like the teapot form and starting playing with it. The teapot was my canvas.”
“I use a lot of recycled materials in my works but I transform them so much you can’t tell what they were,” says Gignac. He “tortures” these materials with different welding processes, adding rivets, flame finials, spouts, and handles. He begins nearly every teapot by first making a pen and ink drawing, often doing elaborate sketches, particularly working with materials he’s less “at home” with. And occasionally, sometimes the work just happens.
Gignac has always been attracted to antiquated, industrial forms and the idea of building pieces that have a deep history. His teapots are large, some 5-8’ feet tall: “I like the juxtaposition of a giant factory form reduced to a very approachable scale in a teapot. It puts you on a very different relationship to the piece.”
Look for Gignac’s work at Museo, Langley, Wash.; Kimzey Miller, Seattle, Wash.; and Ferrin Gallery, Lennox, Mass.
Teapot by patrick Horsley