Curious Trends


Tea services, teapots and crafty tea time treats

Inventive designers are turning humble tea sets into extraordinary works of art. Inspired by the pomp and ceremony of teatime tradition, many are turning classic tea service styling on its head. The teapot alone is subject to quirky re-modelling, upcycling, digital mapping and imbued with erotic symbolism (as above). Can tea drinking ever get any more sexy than this?

At the commercial end of the spectrum Repeat Repeat’s Plum bone china range gives the traditional teacup a dash of character:

Lowri Davies’ draws on the natural beauty of Welsh flora and fauna for her beautifully hand painted tableware:

Yorkshire based Emma Dolan’s traditional shaped teacups are inspired by the classic designs of Clarice Cliff, Rennie Mackintosh, Midwinter, Shelley, and Royal Winton chintz. Each cup is made from Harris Tweed, handwoven in the Outer Hebrides, or Hainsworths 100% wool woven felt. Emma’s teacups “address the notion of everyday objects being elevated to precious collectables.”

Walter Keeler’s handcrafted, earthenware Polychrome Crabstock teapot is strikingly unique:

Geoffrey Mann’s Cross-Fire teapot was created by digitally mapping the soundwaves of an argument from the 1999 film, American Beauty, and casting in ceramic from a rapid prototype mould. Edinburgh based Mann uses digital technology “to capture the ethereal and make it real.”

Rebecca Sims’ series of porcelain teapots hark back to a ‘Make Do and Mend’ era, when much-loved everyday objects were innovatively restored using limited resources, rather than throwing them away. Sims slip-casts in porcelain from moulds taken of found everyday objects to replace the parts of teapots that are commonly broken or chipped – thus turning the original teapot into a unique object that still retains its functionality.

Mirjana Smith takes recycling one stage further with her ‘found object and assemblage art’ teapots. She uses items collected from charity shops, scarp bins, boot sales and auctions to piece together unique, but useful objects, “giving a new perspective to the familiar.”

RCA graduate Tien Sheng Huang’s Tea Impression is a novel concept whereby a label, which can also be used as a coaster is attached to a teabag. When the used/wet teabag comes into contact with the card it creates an impression – in this case in the shape of a traditional British symbol, such as a double decker bus, or a telephone box. Tien’s idea is that tourists taking tea back from London will have lasting memories of their visit.

Free Time Industries was set up by designers Kate Bailey, Ariana Budner, Naomi Parker and Amber R Murray using their free time to make things like the Faraday tea making concept. Whereas most people prepare tea with their backs to their guests, with Faraday the whole process takes place on a table, using a borosilicate glass and maple tea service with an induction plate in the tray. "Faraday merges the task of preparing tea with the social experience of consuming it. The use of induction technology allows the boiling of water to take place at the table, without a stovetop or a steel kettle. Neither the serving tray nor the objects upon it get hot while the water boils within the glass vessel." Via MocoLoco.

Robert Cooper creates ceramic tea caddies, and says, “Caddies are for holding tea, maybe, they remind me of allotment and garden sheds that have grown old. Able to do their job with a story attached.”

Kate McBride’s porcelain tea services are well known for their quirky take on traditional manufacturers such as Wedgwood and classical designs. Her latest collection includes a Naughty but Nice tea service, featuring spliff smoking muses and symbols of decadence.

Newly graduated from Cardiff School of Art, Sarah Younan’s ceramics and performance videos also focus upon the symbolism of the teapot – in particular the vessel’s connection to sexuality and the female form. At her ‘tea party’, the tableware comes alive and performs. Childhood tales and suggestive imagery are combined in her upside down, carnivalesque vision.

And, strange to tell, among that earthen lot
Some could speak, while others not
And suddenly one more impatient cried
Who is the potter, pray, and who the pot? (Rhubbayat, Omar Khayyam)

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