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The Teapot - A Ceramic Cultural Item

T ea is one of those cultural items, which has a strong connection to ceramics - thanks to the teapot and the teabowl. It is a very pervasive drink, not only in Eastern societies, but also in the West. The same thing can be said of tea utensils, such as the teapot, which is also a collectors item in both the East and the West -- one need think only of the coveted Yixing Teapot.

Teapots have a rich history and are thought to have originated at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in China. Today we are more familiar with the Japanese Tea Ceremony, but there is also a Chinese Tea Ceremony and even a Russian one. In Japan, the Arita Teapot is well known, but in China and also the west, we are more familiar with Yixing Teapots, although of course there are many more styles, such as the lessor known TeoChew Teapot. If you are thinking of becoming a collector of teapots, it is important to know how to choose and appreciate them.

The west now also has a tradition of contemporary teapots. A good example of a well known English teapot maker is Josiah Wedgwood. Modern artists have been fascinated by this cultural object, as can be seen in Leslie Ferrins new book Teapots Transformed: Exploration of an Object, which traces the transformation of the contemporary American teapot from its functional, traditional origins in the early 1960’s to its present status as a sculptural object. Garth Clark's publication The Eccentric Teapot, Four Hundred Years of Innovation, takes a look at the more gregarious manifestations of that humble but universal domestic appliance, the teapot. Far from the simpler examples, as may be found in your average Chinese restaurant (ever seen one with the lid attached with fishing line?), this survey of teapots of the past four centuries covers everything from Yixing pots to the Japanese Book of Tea, the Boston Tea Party to the famous "Suprematist Teapot" by Kasemir Malevich.

Of course, as studio potters or hobbyists, we are also makers of teapots. Being such a widespread cultural item, there are many hints on how to improve your teapot making techniques. The humble teapot has also made its way into computer design, with various people generating 3D models.

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