Morgan Contemporary Glass' teapots exhibit pours on the creativity

Photo by Morgan Glass Gallery
Kurt Shaw
| Saturday, May 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

More than 80 teapots, of every imaginable description, make up the exhibit “teapots! 7th Invitational” on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery in Shadyside.

The works are from more than 60 national and international artists. And though you cannot pour tea from most of them, each is full of creativity.

They range from a unique “knitted glass” teapot titled “Teabird” by Seattle glass artist Carol Milne, to a teapot made from a Rockwell water meter by Frank Flynn of Rochester, NY. Titled “Betty Raphael's Meter Teapot,” it pays homage to Society for Contemporary Craft founder, Elizabeth “Betty” Raphael (1920-1998), whose father was Willard Rockwell, the founder of several businesses that eventually grew into industrial giant and defense contractor Rockwell International.

As Morgan is a contemporary glass gallery, there are plenty of pieces in that medium to go around, such as “First Bloom,” a flame-worked glass basket and nest teapot by Demetra Theofanous who lives in Mountain View, Calif., and maintains a studio in San Francisco.

Theofanous says she used the basket form, or container, as a metaphor for personal growth and transformation of self. “With this teapot, the branches and flowers are breaking free of the boundaries we set, based on the expectations that others have set to try and contain us,” Theofanous says.

“We often let obstacles or expectations keep us from taking the steps that can transform ourselves and our lives,” adds the artist, who started out as a tax consultant and is now a full time artist. “I made the career change later in life, but it still feels like my ‘First Bloom.' A fresh start in a new direction, that was truly meant for me.”

Some of the unique pieces in the show contain even more unusual materials. For example, Amanda Salm's “coyoT” teapot is made of naturally dyed horsetail hair, leather and coyote claws.

Salm, who lives in Pacific Grove, Calif., says that the coiled horsetail hair, which the lid is made out of, is a material she uses quite a bit in the baskets she makes. But with this teapot, she ventured into using leather, and coyote claws she found at a shop where she purchased the leather.

“The coyote claws were the inspiration for the piece and I had to think on it for a while as to how best to incorporate them effectively,” she says.

Another unusual piece, “Falling from the Nest” by Leisa Rich of Atlanta, Ga., is made from a special heat-activated fabric called Fosshape that can be formed into various configurations using steam and extreme heat. As unique as the material it is made form is, so to is the story behind the piece.

“ ‘Falling From the Nest' is a very personal reflection on the challenges I have been experiencing as I watch my mother face dementia,” Rich says. “She is a woman used to controlling everything. She started Canada's first personnel placement agency in the early '60s at a time when few women with children worked outside of the home. She was a formidable mother. It feels futile watching her ability to control slip away, being able to do nothing about it, and seeing the frustration and fear she is experiencing as she is still aware enough to know that it is.”

In an attempt to make sense of this disease, Rich says she mulled over how fleeting our memories, thoughts, ideas and musings can be. “The exterior represents my mother,” she says. “I left it a virginal white to reflect the innocence that characterizes those with the disease. They become children again as it stages its quick destruction of their ‘adultness.'

“Inside the piece is my world, a world of anger, frustration and the fear of a daughter watching her mother slip away from her,” Rich says. “I have created a lava flow of blood over volcanic rocks that could erupt at any time, representing the anger I feel. I am the lone, white bird watching over my mother's brain in its nest. The brain is glowing with the strong inner self that she used to be.”

Also containing personal meaning, David Peters' “Teapot Full of Dreams” is worth noting for it too speaks about someone close to the artist.

“My wife Jan, passed away in December of 2011, so, of course, the work since then has been heavily influenced by that loss,” says Peters, a photographer and photo illustrator living in Venice, Calif., who also happens to be a vintage aviation buff.

Made primarily from vintage aviation parts, Peters says “Teapot Full of Dreams” is full of “shared moments.”

“The paper map elements are ‘waypoints' or places that held some significance to me or the two of us in our flying adventures together, a favorite spot to fly to, an adventure here or there, losing an engine at night over mountainous terrain, a favorite coastal run, downtown L.A. where we were married and so on, with accompanying icons.”

The body of the teapot or the vessel form is hand-coiled aluminum tubing, the kind used to move hydraulic fluid or fuel around in an airplane. “All of the parts in this teapot — except for the mid-20th century plastic bits, the bride and groom, spaceman and model airplane — have been used or ‘flown' in an airplane,” Peters says.

“The kinetic action in this teapot comes from the tension in the bottom coils, a bit of serendipity, the kind that comes from ‘assemblage,' the interaction of found elements as they become something new.

“Part of the fun for me is making up something semi-mechanical that has movement or articulates in some way in addition to the repurposing of those materials,” Peters says. “I enjoy the magic of converting logical left-brain technology into curious right-brain artifacts.”

Of course, there are many more equally interesting teapots on display in this overwhelming exhibit. One only need take the appropriate time to go through it to find it will be time well spent.

Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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