In the Yixing ceramic tradition, scholars use tea to stimulate their work and intellectual discourse among their cohort. Yixing teapot designs are filled with symbolic content which express aesthetic attitudes and intellectual interests. Before a gathering, a host will carefully select a teapot for its particular symbolism in order to influence a stimulating dialogue.
As an undergraduate at the University of Miami, I spent a few hours each afternoon alongside Bonnie Seeman as she worked in her studio. We drank oolong poured from small Yixing teapots. Shelves lining her studio were densely packed with her collection of Yixing pots and mugs by contemporary potters. While sipping tea, we discussed art, craft, politics, and our personal narratives. Through Bonnie’s mentorship and in this environment––rich with contemporary and traditional ceramics––I developed my love for ceramics and decided to become an artist. Tea became an essential stimulus to my working process, and later Bonnie’s Yixing teapots became a source of inspiration.
I created the following series of sculptural teapots in an Yixing-inspired style in recognition of the central role tea, Yixing ceramics, and Bonnie's mentorship played in my artistic development. I also introduced an investigation into material culture, desire, and consumption as central themes to my work with this series.
Each tea ware was hand-built to one-eighth scale of its original and to varying degrees of functional practicality. The specific tools and appliances in the series were chosen as subjects because they were items I personally wanted to own--for my studio and for my home. I wanted them because of they were useful. Owning them would provide a great deal of convenience to my home studio. I also wanted them because of their aesthetic designs and brand reputations. I anticipated that owning them would give me some abstract sense of validation--of potential to make my environments more beautiful, cohesive, more adaptable, or of higher quality. I've always been sensitive to perceptions and I wanted my surroundings to communicate who I was, how I saw myself and my work--or at least how I wanted to see myself and to be evaluated. To my surprise, as I reproduced each tool and appliance, the original held less psychological power for me. I no longer felt the need for validation from owning the tools. I knew them intimately. I'd mastered their curves and proportions as if I'd authored them.