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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ceramicist turns her attention to teapots

Ceramicist Teresa Chang is well known for her line of handmade dinnerware. Glazed in the palest tones of pumpkin, ginger, celadon and cream, her modern designs have been featured in the pages of such magazines as O, Elle Decor, InStyle, Martha Stewart Living and Lucky.
But recently, Chang set herself a new challenge in clay: building a better teapot.
"Most teapots don't work very well," said Chang, 40, who works out of a studio near Philadelphia's Chinatown and sells her pottery through her Web site, "They dribble, or they're hard to pick up, or the lid falls off."
Her new one-of-a-kind teapots, which sell for about $600, are guaranteed to do none of the above. In fact, Chang, who offers a range of designs from traditional to Asian-inspired, won't sell a pot until it passes her own tea-brewing test.
"The lid has to be a perfect fit, so no air gets in," she said. Also key is the pour, which should not only be dripless but flow in a steady, unbroken stream. "Ideally, you want to have at least three inches of quiet before it breaks up."
Chang originally trained as an architect, but her interest in teapots grew out of a series of workshops she took with a Taiwanese master potter, Ah Leon. "The first time I saw him work, it was almost like watching a wizard," she recalled. "The level of skill was like nothing I'd ever seen. I think he must know more about teapots than anyone in the world."
Leon, she said, has done stop-motion photographic studies of teapots pouring, and compiled treatises on the proper curve and structure of handles and the optimum angles for attaching spouts to teapot bodies. Chang keeps those reference works close when she's shaping her own pots, which can take more than 30 hours to create.
"I'm kind of crazy in my obsession with this. But even with my dishes, I've always been really interested in function."
Original article by
EILS LOTOZO Knight Ridder


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