British Teapots - PRINTER VERSION
Published in New Art Examiner
, 14(5), January 1987.
One of the first things you notice about the teapots in this show is that they are not metaphors
or garish, whimsical plays on the teapot form that one sees so often in the myriad teapot
exhibitions across the country. American ceramists seem to view the making of teapots as an
opportunity to be "creative" and "inventive" ‚ hence the glut of teapots in the shape of
everything from cow's udders and cantaloupes to nuclear reactors and human skulls. Among U.S.
ceramists, it seems that the only prerequisite for a teapot is that it not look like a teapot. It
is not surprising, therefore, that in the midst of all of this creative posturing few really
beautiful teapots have emerged that speak to us in a language we understand.
We can safely say, I think, that the seven British potters who make up this exhibition run the
gamut of aesthetic attitudes existing in British pottery today. David Leach and Seth Cardew work
inside the modern utilitarian tradition of their distinguished fathers. Michael Casson and Sarah
Walton's works continue this tradition, but take a more expressive approach to form and
decoration. The works of Walter Keeler, Janice Tchanlenko, and Phillipa de Burlet reflect a more
contemporary approach to color and form.
What all of these works have in common, from Leach's self-assured handling of the traditional
teapot form in the vein of the classical pottery of the Sung dynasty to de Burlet's slightly
updated teapot with Postmodernist designs, is that their makers accept the cultural and social
limitations of the teapot (in much the same way a composer accepts the limitations of a sonata)
and to a greater and lesser degree succeed in using that recognizable form to make uncommonly
eloquent visual statements. Unlike their clamorous American cousins, these teapots do more than
merely declare individuality and brag about ingenuity ‚ they respect the viewer and strive to make
him or her part of the aesthetic proposition by using a form and language the viewer understands.
Part of that language—the language of craft—is function. The viewer is given access to the
piece through function and is able, because of the possibilities of use, to become an active
participant in the aesthetic proposal. It is also through use that the aesthetic significance of
these teapots begins to reveal itself and starts to act on the notion of what the art experience
can and ought to be. These seven British potters have succeeded in adding to and enriching the
language of craft and have not, as is so often the case with contemporary craft, muddied and
© 1980 - 2023 Rob Barnard . All Rights Reserved. Site design: eismontdesign