Teapot Guide for Hitchhikers to the Galaxy
Updated: Nov 17, 2019
There have been a lot of meanings attached to a traditional tea ceremony. Concepts such as wabi-sabi (the beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete") or ichi-go ichi-e (once in a lifetime event) have instilled into daily lives through simple rituals of tea-drinking.
However we are now heading inevitably towards an era of extraterrestrial colonization. Those who were not born with a smart phone at hand, could still appreciate the merit of teapots which are made from clay, and hesitate for a second before rushing into pursuing a smart teapot which may have features like detecting thirsty desires in its surroundings and responding in a synthetic voice "drink me".
Then for these people, tea time becomes a melancholic moment. Time elapses over the a pot of tea, just like a sand timer. One could reminisce events happened at similar moments in our history, wisdom that have popped up at sages' tea parties, and equations which have been jotted down during tea breaks and happened to reveal trajectories into future. Despite their leisure intention, tea breaks might be the most productive hours for idea generation in human history. Therefore there could be a risk of the eventual ban on tea time in future under the reign of robotics, once human-thinking shows detrimental signs of energy-inefficiency.
Just as suitable instruments are required to play the right tone, appropriate drinking vessels are fundamental to brew the right moods and thoughts. Whether you are embarking on a hitchhiking journey to Mars, or still packing articles made on Earth, potter Ian Rylatt's tea set collection would be an excellent choice to fit those occasions. Each collection of his work happens to be an enigma to decipher. Naturally drinkers ought to demonstrate sufficient intelligence in order to be permitted for the indulgence of tea as well as further labour of thinking.
Above all, Ian's work strikes a fine balance between randomness and order. Those geometric components have been aesthetically assembled in an unexpected way, just like notes which are played ad hoc in a jazz concert but still achieving a higher purpose of music. Such creative ideas behind his works are indeed "ichi-go ichi-e".
‘Interlocking Tea Set’
The I.T.S. developed out of an idea of making teapots out of a thrown form that was then cut up like a cake. Having made the teapots and when displaying in a kind of circle it prompted the idea of a whole set. Funnily enough someone came into the gallery at the time and agreed and commissioned me to do it. It comprises of a teapot, hot water pot, jug, sugar container and four cups on a tray.
“Concerto for Clayrinet”
- Drinking Set -
This came about because of an anniversary exhibition at Leeds Craft & Design Centre. The brief was ‘celebratory drinking vessels’. At the time I had made a set of beakers which were all different, but still related to each other. So continuing on from that, the idea of celebration led me to think of music and instruments. The flute was my first thought as I knew it came apart, but eventually I was inspired by the sculptural qualities in the clarinet. Each component is a unique piece in itself which when fitted together with the others makes up the whole of a clarinet. The title refers to a 1940’s tune by Artie Shaw, which I have changed a fraction, to be a play on words in relation to the object. The “Concerto for Clayrinet” is a celebration of clay and of the clarinet through the social occasion of drinking. It is a celebration of the music of life.
“Silence is Golden”
- Coffee Set -
This is a natural follow on from the Clarinet. The title refers to a song from the 1960’s by The Four Seasons. The sentiment and the colour are important. I do think that sometimes we can say too much, especially about art. Sometimes it’s best for the object to be seen and judged just by that. Art has its own language of communication.
“Chemystery of Clay”
- Coffee Set -
This came about after going to an antiques centre where I saw a small pencil sharpener which I liked. It reminded me of chemistry equipment, like test tubes and flasks which are natural drinking vessels and jugs. The beauty of laboratory design was used to create individual pieces that were arranged to create a whole aesthetic design. This led to the title words which play with the image.
- Teapot -
Whilst I was waiting to see the doctor, the visual idea of a teapot as a sphere with spikes came to me. In the process of making the reference of the 2nd World War mines came into the equation and so a black or rusty type of glaze was chosen for the idea. Of course the word ‘mine’ has many different meanings, and I hope people may consider some of them on seeing and using the pot. A ‘mine’ in the military sense is awful, and the fact that countries in the world still support war as a ‘tool’ is a sad state of affairs for everyone. If only we could sit around a table in peace and share a drink instead. The choice is ours.
- Teapot -
The rocking teapot is the result of pure play with shapes and conventions.
Interview with the Artist
Could you tell us a bit about your background?
I studied at Lincoln College of Art and Manchester Polytechnic in the UK. I set up as a potter in the late 1980's and my focus has always been on teapots and drinking vessels. All pieces are hand thrown and constructed and fired to stoneware. I was born in Lincoln but now live with my wife on a smallholding in the hills of west Wales. I strongly believe in quality craftsmanship in 'handmade' items linked with interesting design, shape, form or concept.
How did you get interested in art and design and ceramic making in particular?
When I was about 5, at infant school at break time I saw the window display of a higher class and was drawn to it and peered in to see what else they had done in the class. It was my first real consciousness of ‘Art’. I wanted to be in that class when I was older.
As to my interest in ceramics, when I was about 10/11 I did a lesson using clay in middle school. I was initially kind of scared of doing anything and used a mould to make a candle stick holder. I used a knife to prize the clay out and was promptly warned by another kid not to do that! If the teacher saw me he would probably kill me, or at least tell me off in no uncertain terms. Fortunately that fear dissipated very quickly in later lessons. We made a whole range different of things, including fictional creatures, some of which I still have!
My interest in art which has been with me for almost as long as I can remember, and the experience of those clay lessons eventually led me to do an O level in ceramic design. And though when I went to college I tried to keep all the options open, I knew I could always do clay in the final reckoning. Which is what happened, but I still do other things if inspired to do so.
What are the most important/useful things you’ve learned so far in your art experience?
This is difficult to answer. Obviously all the education I’ve had in anything, and the learning of manual skills. But art in its many disguises has something else that is almost intangible. In truth, in art something either moves you or not, it is not prescribed and there doesn’t seem to be a magic formula. I think it is about feeling your way through in making something. It’s amazing how we know when one thing is better than another, and in the process of making we naturally do something to make it work as best as it can.
What are the challenges of your creative process?
To come up with an idea for something that inspires me to want to make it, otherwise what is the point? The process of coming up with an idea as my wife says can be problematic as I will exhaust possibilities, hating in a way to actually make a decision. I can be tenacious, and not do anything until I’m really ready. The down side is obvious in my usual delay until the eleventh hour, but it probably is the thing that makes me be the kind of person I am that makes the types of pieces I do. It has its advantages and its draw backs; just ask my wife.
What are the areas you would like to explore in your future projects?
The beauty of this is that I never know what I’m going to make next. Something will inspire. Life, as they say, is a box of chocolates.
Lincoln College of Art
Manchester Polytechnic, BA Hons
Member of South Wales Potters and Makers Guild of Wales
Exhibitions & Awards
Potfest in the Park Ceramic Show
Art in Clay, Hatfield
Earth & Fire, Rufford Craft Centre, UK
2nd Prize, 5th International Texas Teapot Tournament, 18 Hands Gallery, USA 2012
Christmas show at Leeds Craft Centre & Design Gallery, 2nd November - 4th January.
AMOCA American Museum of Ceramic Art, California
Cameo, Clay Arts Museum, Texas, USA
The Kamm Teapot Foundation, USA
Shepparton Art Gallery, Australia
World Ceramic Exposition Foundation, South Korea
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, UK
University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, UK
Robert Pinchin Collection, Stoke on Trent Museum, UK
Newark Town Hall Collection, Notts, UK