Tea has been a part of human culture for over four thousand years. In Morocco, sweet mint tea is poured from great height from a silver ewer. In Britain, the civilized stop everything for afternoon tea, elegantly served in bone china tea service. In Japan, chado, the way of tea, is a way of life. In China, the Yixing teapot was developed for ceremonial tea.
We take the simplest products of our natural world: leaves, earth, fire and water. The leaves are added to the water, heated by fire, mixed in a clay vessel. The alchemy of this transformation produces more than the constituent parts. We too are transformed. We gain tranquillity, harmony, a cleared mind, warmed hands and human interaction.
For the contemporary potter, the teapot is among the highest forms. In the form of the teapot, the maker must bring together body, spout, lid, handle, and knob into harmonious form, which must pour without drips, strain out the leaves, please the spirit. So perhaps we may take the teapot as an icon, and the process and utensils of tea as ritual. Tea is tranformative. Drinking tea, we absorb nature.
In the Tea and Tears Series, I have taken the teapot to be the metaphor for ourselves in moments and stages of our lives. The pot may be found walking in the woods, swimming in a dream, searching for a stone. It may be reaching to a higher level, protecting, traveling. In the Stones Series, the teapot has given way to other “characters”: human busts, rocks, and bones, which give expression to as actors and onlookers, lovers and grievers. The making of these assemblages has helped me to deal with recent and timeless issues of life and loss.
The palette of accidental happenings of the saggar fire, which I have developed over years in my classic spirit keepers and vessels, has been used in this series to color each clay stone, cup, teapot, head, stick and bone. Driven now by content as well as form and color, these elements are assembled in ways I hope touch upon our universal experience.