Teapots awash in creativity in Morgan exhibit

Kurt Shaw
| Sunday, May 1, 2011

Now in its fifth year, Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery's "teapots!" exhibit has grown in scope and scale like never before.

Featuring 75 works by 53 artists from around the country, the exhibit proves the teapot form is not only an object of tradition, but inspiration. Taking on every imaginable iteration, there are teapots in every possible artistic medium, from wood, steel and bronze, to felt, fabric, beads -- even a teapot made entirely of paper teabag wrappers. Of course, this being a gallery that focuses on contemporary studio glass, there are many glass teapots, as well.

Part of the reason there are so many teapots is that many of the artists contributed more than one teapot each. "We may only have one or two more artists than last year, but we have way more pieces," says gallery owner Amy Morgan.

"What we really tried to do this year was include more Pittsburgh artists," says Morgan, adding that 14 of the 53 artists whose works are on display are from the local area.

Those 14 artists and their works reflect the wide variety of mediums this show contains. For example, there is a rubber-cast teapot by Adrienne Heinrich, teaspoons by the silversmith ROY, a cast-bronze teapot by sculptor Peter Calaboyias, paper-cut teapots by Dana Ingham, even a mixed-media teapot made of small plastic toys by Gerry Florida.

Jason Forck's "Texas Teapot" is a real attention getter, especially considering these gasoline-conscious times. His entry is a glass gasoline can that could function as a teapot. Realistic down to every detail, including the lettering on the side, it is the exact same size as the kind of portable gas can used to fill a lawnmower. But it's all done in blown glass.

Like Forck's piece, Ron Layport's "Goat's Head Tea" also takes a nontraditional teapot form, although more attuned to nature than consumption. Layport's teapot, his first, is inspired by his recognizable wood carved-animal effigy vessels, which many may remember from an exhibit of his works earlier this year at Society for Contemporary Craft's Satellite Gallery in the lobby of the Steel Plaza T-Station at One Mellon Center, Downtown.

Looking at Layport's piece, Morgan says that some of the most creative pieces come from artists who have never considered the form before, like fiber artist Ed Bing Lee of Philadelphia.

"Typically, Lee's oeuvre is an expression of his continuing interest in the process of knotting," Morgan says. "That is, working both two and three dimensionally while exploring materials not traditionally associated with macrame. This foray into the realm of the teapot is new for him."

That goes a long way in explaining why his teapots have unusual themes, which are based on Japanese woodblock prints. One, "Cranes," is a teapot that takes the shape of three cranes huddled together that Lee found in a wood block print from the Edo period (1615-1868). "Wave at Kanagawa," on the other hand, is a three-dimensional representation of "The Great Wave at Kanagawa (from a Series of Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji)," also from the Edo period, by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). Just like in the print, look closely, and you will find a huddled mass of figures in a boat at the center, that, in this case, form the spout of the teapot.

Some of the ceramic pieces are real standouts. Three teapots by Thomas Hubert of Fairview, Erie County, for example, grab the eye for their highly decorative surfaces, which are produced with careful consideration to each form by building up multiple layers of individually fired applications of underglaze using spray and brush techniques, masking and resist methods, and a final clear glaze. Morgan says that each piece is fired at least four times.

Some of his pieces have added wood parts, such as "Long Green Wood Teapot," which has a wispy piece of walnut as the lid handle, and a wooden base that looks something like a platform shoe.

The wood is first cut with a band saw, then hand carved, and, finally, it goes through a series of careful sanding stages until it mimics the smooth character of the ceramic surface.

Just as meticulous, but in metal, are two teapots by Darlys Ewoldt of Chicago. Looking a little bit like lanterns from the "Genie in the Lamp" lore, they are made of formed and brazed copper. And, although they look quite functional, like nearly every teapot in this exhibit, they are not. So, keep that in mind when seeing this show. You may find a teapot you'll love, and possibly even take home, but don't get steamed when you realize you can't actually steep and pour tea from it.

Additional Information:

'teapots! 5th invitational'

When: Through June 11. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays

Admission : Free

Where: Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery, 5833 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside

Details: 412-441-5200 or website

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