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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Ode to the teapot

There is something momentous about a teapot. In the harried business of 21st-century living, it is, in a way, a monument to time, or rather taking time — say, tea time.
A brewed pot of Irish breakfast or Darjeeling is an occasion for a more leisurely chat with friends or a spouse. It eschews the cardboard cup and plastic lid that is an icon of life on the go.
No, a teapot says, "Sit down, dear. Relax. How are you? Cream? Sugar? Lemon, perhaps?" Conversation set to the meter of a stirring spoon on porcelain seems to be of more import than espresso-wired chats over cups-to-go.
Don't get me wrong. I must have my coffee every morning, copious ounces of it. But it is efficiently harvested from a sleek black and chrome thermal contraption that does everything but grind the beans and find my car keys. It even turns itself on. There is no ceremony.
My collection of teapots stowed in the china hutch too often are neglected. I release the shamrock-festooned Belleek to celebrate those rare Sunday afternoons when minutes seem to pass more slowly. When my best girlfriends stop by, I liberate Cardew's whimsical Alice-in-Wonderland pot because I want the minutes to last longer.
It is those moments, the bites of time demanded by the teapot, that no doubt have inspired artists to use this utilitarian time machine as a medium, a venue for social commentary or expressions of whimsy.
At the Bellevue Arts Museum through Oct. 2, "The Artful Teapot: 20th Century Expression from the Kamm Collection" is a celebration of the genre.
The cream of Gloria and Sonny Kamm's 7,500-item collection is a serious testimonial to the take-notice powers of the teapot. These 250 creations of porcelain and other materials comment on everything from nuclear power to Oscar Wilde's bisexuality.
Museum-goers on the opening weekend were treated to a lecture by the Kamms on their collection. Their enthusiasm and sophisticated devotion to the genre is contagious. And, by the way, they say the Bellevue Arts Museum has pulled off a better exhibition than any of the collection's previous six venues.
Teapot lovers should check out the exhibit and give a few moments back to the teapot.
— Kate Riley
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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