Shadyside gallery's annual teapot exhibit is bold, brash, beautiful
A teapot may strike you as the most basic of kitchen accoutrements, but one look at the exhibit “Teapots! 8th Invitational” on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery, and you will never look at another teapot the same again.
Artist-made teapots, especially, can take the form of just about anything the artist can dream up. The result is an exciting, eclectic and engaging exhibit that features nearly 80 teapots by more than 60 artists. They are made from myriad materials, from ceramic to fiber, wood to glass, metal and more — even pencil shavings, such Jennifer Maestre's colorful “Shave Some Tea for Me.”
Now in its eighth year, the exhibit has grown from an all glass-teapot show to one of many forms of expression.
“We asked that their pieces be representative of their work and bear some resemblance to a teapot form,” says gallery owner-director Amy Morgan about the artists she chose to participate. “Many of these artists have never made teapots, so we never quite know what we'll get.
“Our goal this year was to have additional depth in media so that we could really showcase diversity,” Morgan says. “It seems that we have been successful, as our clients seem amazed at the complexity and originality of the work in this show.”
Some of the teapots are tiny, like Holly Dobkin's “Tip Me Over,” which is a pumpkin-shaped silver teapot set like a jewel atop a ring one can wear.
Some are grand, such as Brian Engel's “Cowboy Tea,” a nonfunctional teapot made of solid cast glass.
“I love the old West and cowboy culture, so this pot was made to reflect that vintage metal-enamel style with a contemporary twist,” Engel says. “Making tea is somewhat of a ritual, and imagination plays a strong role in my work. So, by creating a nonfunctional pot that expresses action, I'm hoping the viewers can imagine themselves sitting next to a fire on a cold morning waiting for the moment the water boils.”
Like Engel's piece, many of the teapots on display have a story to tell.
Cory McCrory's “Morning People” tells the story of a busy family getting ready for their day, each seen popping out of a window of a small house that makes up the top half of the teapot.
“I am obsessed with houses and what goes on inside them — family dynamic, are they happy, is someone sick, hurt or getting hurt,” McCrory says. “Morning people are just one of thousands of different types of people that could be. They are chipper and ready to take on the day with gusto and a smile or a song.”
Mike Mangiafico and Ed Pinto's “Honey Pot Tea Set,” a wooden teapot with two teacups and saucers served up on a tray, is a real standout. The teapot is displayed as if cracked open to reveal it is host to an infestation of glass honeycombs with a small swarm of glass honeybees attending the party.
“After procuring some wild honeycombs from a local farmer, we set about casting these three-dimensional wax forms into glass,” Mangiafico says. They had to ask themselves, “Well, how do you do this? There is no tutorial or lesson to draw upon for instruction.”
After much trial and error, they made a two-part silicone rubber mold of the honeycomb. “We would fill the rubber molds with glass powder and a binder to create the replica of the original comb,” Mangiafico says. “Then we would place it in the kiln and carefully fire it to tack fuse into a solid-glass form. For a binder, I simply used water and created slurry with the powder. I filled the rubber with the slurry, then froze it solid. I really have control over the colors, too, by blending different powders.”
Mangiafico created the bees in flame-worked glass, and Pinto did the woodturning for the teapots, cups and saucers. The result is a magnificent culmination of effort, one that takes center stage in an already compelling exhibit full of equally talented efforts.
Many of the remaining works have just as interesting back stories, as well, from the autumnal inspired works of Jeffrey Lloyd Dever to Jonathan Capps “Teapot-time Dilation,” which shows slices of a glass teapot as if seen through an MRI machine, that beg to be discovered before the show ends June 1.
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.