I started making teapots in 1993 at the suggestion of Leslie Ferrin from the Ferrin Gallery. Though her request initiated this work, the customs, rituals and habits that form tea culture continue to inspire me. Tea links west and east through history, travel, and trade. In many western households tea leaves grown half a world away have become so integral to the rhythms of daily life that tea is not a luxury, it is a necessity. The teapot too has evolved. Often serving as the emotional hearth of a household, the humble teapot has achieved iconic stature.
Tea is the hub of a web of connections linking unlikely people to far away places. Following this trail of connections is the journey I take via the teapot. Tea was first introduced to Europe by Marco Polo in 1271. By the fifteenth-century clamor for luxuries from the far east had spurred Europe into the 'Age of Exploration.'
There is something beguiling about the old maps used by seafarers from that time. In subtle colors, embellished with fanciful cartouche, they describe the world then just becoming known to Europeans. Drawing only from observations made with the naked eye and a few simple tools, the first cartographers mapped the contours of the globe, its oceans and land mass. Old maps dazzle me with their beauty but it is their inaccuracy I find the most endearing.
The mistakes made by early cartographers are oddly reassuring. Inaccuracy when joined with a spirit of adventure occasionally yields unexpected rewards. In pursuit of eastern splendors, Columbus accidentally discovered America. As a chronic bumbler myself, these
types of serendipitous mistakes mirror my own creative process.
Life aboard the sailing ship of those times may have seem romantic from the shore but it was a harsh life even for men of rank. It attracted harsh men with singular focus and driving ambition. The voracity with which those elegant ruffians raided the oceans appalls me. In pursuit of wealth, they ransacked the Americas, enslaved Africa, exploited the Indies, and bankrupted China.
Thus a pleasure as innocent as morning tea, my breakfast's crown jewel, links me to men whose activities I deplore. This discrepancy between scruple and pleasure is another chapter in the story of the tea trade and by proxy, the teapot.
The teapot's greatest distinction is as a universally recognizable object equally common in both eastern and western hemispheres and central to habits and rituals in many cultures. As such a startling range of disparate imagery can be associated with the teapot and find new meaning there when framed between the teapot's handle and its spout. Image and object merge. Each gains from the qualities of the other.
As an artist I am tempting fate with my choice of medium. The stakes are raised again by the delicate nature of my work. This gives me a little thrill, like standing too close to the edge of a cliff. I want my work to be alluring and also to inspire a slight sensation of uneasiness. After all nothing lasts forever.