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Book Review

The Eccentric Teapot
by Garth Clark. Review by Steven Goldate.

Garth Clarks "The Eccentric Teapot, Four Hundred Years of Innovation" takes a look at the more gregarious manifestations of that humble but universal domestic appliance, the teapot. Far from the simpler examples, as may e.g. be found in your average Chinese restaurant (ever seen one with the lid attached with fishing line?), this survey of teapots of the past four centuries covers everything from Yixing pots to the Japanese Book of Tea, the Boston Tea Party to the famous "Suprematist Teapot" by Kasemir Malevich.

The teapot is not just a pot, but rather an ambassador of culture, a form of expression, a carrier of ideology and beauty alike. Clarks Brief History of Tea and The Rituals of Tea give us an insight into the 4,000 year oriental history of tea and its more recent embrace by occindental societies (17th C). The Japanese Tea Ceremony is described in detail as are other "rituals" of tea drinking.

Amidst the legends and traditions of tea are the more eccentric examples of the pots made to hold the golden liquid. While Yixing pots, Minton, Wedgwood and other examples from the annals of history are depicted, the main focus is on innovative, if not outrageous comtemporary teapots. Particular favorites of mine are the works by US American Richard Notkin, whose Yixing style pots in the form of an exploding atomic plant, a chain bound hostage or "Curbside Teapot" are not only beautifully executed, but also form a comic social commentary.

These vessels are truly forms of expression, as can be seen in the works of Clarence Cliff, Jill Crowly, Roy Lichtenstein, Adrian Sachs or Mattheo Thun, to name just a few of the better known artists represented in this publication. Whether describing the Mad Hatters or the Boston Tea Party, or the many outlandish teapot designs to be found in this book, Clarks narration of fact and fiction is a wonderful insight into the history and meaning of tea and will be of interest to the tea drinker, the artist and the non-initiate alike.

But beware, the teapot has its darker side too. As I sat down to write these words, I promptly spillt my cup of c o f f e e over book and table. That beveridge, obviously, the teapot book would absolutely not tolerate -- and right it is.

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