Perhaps it seems odd that I am starting this blog post with the following word. Teapots. The global coronvirus pandemic that has permeated the fabric of our lives is synonymous with life having slowed down for some. Every artist will indefinably have a symbol of their own “still life.” Mine has got to be the humble teapot.
I no longer rush about gulping down cups of scalding tea. I have time to brew a pot and have 2, maybe on reflection 3 (depending on the cup size!) as well as sharing a small milky cup with my little boy who seems to love the ritual as much as I do first thing in the morning. A marker of domesticity, friendship, comfort and contentment, as well as, more often than not, a moment of solitude and pause.
Our sketchbooks often show us dominant themes running through them. Having completed my first watercolour piece of my teapot as part of a collection I am selling later this year, I found myself wondering whether on some level my sketchbook had helped me put this together.
And lo and behold, subliminally I have been painting different teapots for the last year. In fact my second page of my first sketchbook depicts my teapot, a little rough and clunky around the edges tucked behind a box of eggs. On reflection this is one of the easiest shapes to draw in a sketchbook and I’m hoping to show you how later.
….And then the Sunday night ritual where the tea comes out strong and dark. The Swedish tray with small white teapot enough for my favourite china cup with a milk jug. The ultimate creature comfort to remind me of some swampy mermaid luxuriating in the bath like the teabag in the pot itself. Everything a good journal or sketchbook with private thoughts should always include as a reference of good memories.
It seems too that even in the great outdoors, drinking tea with my close friend Charlotte in her fragrant country garden, I managed to squeeze in a thumbnail sketch of her camping teapot, the ones you hang over a fire, (and drink from tin cups), whilst her chickens pecked languidly around our legs….. I only share these things because who would have thought that this simple little sketch of a blue tin peeling teapot still has the power a year on to evoke such vivid memories of drinking tea at dusk….
Even the silver pewter teapot (that will always bring mixed memories) over Christmas held a charm for my sketchbook as I watched the reflections of light play across the metal and tried (unsure whether successfully) to capture the silver interplay of colour. Everyone swore the tea tasted better being poured from an antique that only ever sees the light of day on special occasions, once or twice a year.
…And my final teapot thought (in stark contrast to the last) is my most recent fascination with the Brown Betty teapot. The picture here are thumbnail sketches in watercolour, wet on wet, that ran into pools of paint on the paper, the pot merging into the shadows themselves, an attempt to reflect the nature of tea itself. A 6 cup teapot lives on the top shelf of my parents’ larder (an original) made by J.Bourne and Sons in 1942 from Euturia Red Clay mined in Staffordshire and fondly known as “the potteries.” What a special teapot. A symbol of tea drinking made available to all in Victorian Britain. Ironically today the Brown Betty is one of the best teapots around known for its heat retention properties and rounded shape that ensures optimum infusion of the tea leaves or bags. But best of all, and why I love it, is for its colour. For those of us who are pretty rubbish at cleaning, this teapot is highly likely to forgive you for missing tea stains as it simply fades into its colour brown!
And the moral of all of this? The sketchbook becomes a receptacle of objects that carry meaning. For me, the teapot (alongside many others) brings great memories of good feelings. It seems a logical step that this is then translated into a final piece of a positive teapot scene – sitting in sunlight waiting to be poured and shared.