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The Fusion of Function, Fashion, and Form- The History of the Teapot

A Riddle: What is stout and round, 300 years ancient, used as ballast for trans-oceanic voyages, heavily used and still considered to be gorgeous by the world?

Answer: The teapot.

Does it matter that there is some debate about the origin of this incredible vessel with a very long “shelf-life”? Some reckon that the teapot was originated at Yixing, China and brought to Europe by the Portuguese. Others believe that what was meant to be a Chinese wine container was mistaken for a tea server in England (because it was packed in loose tea leaves) and served as the precursor for the globular teapot. Still other scholars believe that since the Chinese brewed their tea directly in cups, the teapot would not have originated there, but instead traces its ancestry to the Islamic coffee pot.

But wherever it originated, it has always fashionably evolved.

The Dutch brought Chinese tea sets to Europe, and the early trend was to imitate the Asian china using a decorated, earthenware pottery known as “faience.” But in 1710, the humble beginning of the teapot was drastically elevated when craftsmen in Germany were able to produce porcelain as high in quality as the Chinese product. As with all discoveries, imitators all over the continent picked up on the porcelain-making bonanza.

Porcelain teapots started being manufactured all over Europe, and they were not just round, functional, potbellied items anymore. (Who said, “I’m a small teapot, small and stout?) Some of the teapots were pear shaped, or in “fantasy” shapes of animals, birds, or dragons. As the continent grew more industrialized and wealthier, more people were able to emulate the aristocratic tea traditions and the demand for teapots grew.

The teapot gets even classier when in the 1730’s, tea sets started to be manufactured in silver. As fashionable as ever, and still as functional as ever, in the 1780’a teapots started to flaunt pretty small feet in order to keep their heat from burning the tabletops. Shapes included the globular, the pear-shaped, the animal-shaped, the oval, and the new straight-sided pot, along with a small-lived drum-shaped pot.

Early in the 19th century, the form of the teapot fused with the fantastical. The more elaborate and artistic, the more highly valued it was. All previous styles were present in the marketplace.

A century later, tired of the elaborate, consumers brought teapots got back to their original form and function buying more simplistic designs and shapes. Teapot fashion progressed through the Art Deco movement of the 1930’s and, after World War II, started the go back toward function in the 1960’s.

Teapots, like women’s clothing, are now available in many shapes, sizes, styles, and materials. But the versatility and functionality of this simple object has not changed over time.


Lady Dawnya Sasse, is author of the world’s first online tea business programs entitled “Start a Tea Business” and “Start A Children’s Tea Party Business.” To learn more about her online classes and to sign up for her FREE Tea Radio Broadcasts visit her site at TeaEvents.com TeaEvents.com

This article may be distributed freely on your website, as long as this entire article, including links and this resource box are unchanged.

Copyright 2006 Dawnya Sasse All Rights Reserved.
Tea Events TeaEvents.com TeaEvents.com

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