If you like unique handles and teaware……then you probably have something in common with Mei Wong!..She was just picking up her latest teapot, when its interesting handle and other features became so apparent. Mei’s vision was to form a handle that could feature the bamboo of her native homeland (Hong Kong, China), while still being expressed in stoneware.
Looking at the close-up (below right), she cut lugs from slab-rolled clay, and then looped them around the hollow “bamboo” shoot – also rolled clay. Bamboo, symbolic of the harmony between man and nature, is perfect for teaware and gives the form a distinctly asian feel. Looking beyond the handle, though, notice that the body was thrown in the pineapple shape, that distinctly American icon of hospitality since early colonial times.
The joining of these cultural symbols would make for interesting tea conversation alone, but Mei entices us still further with an intriguing horizontal decorative pattern positioned just above the foot. Otherwise, the surface is unadorned.
The decorative band consists of a green pathway (the color of nature) travelled upon by two porcelain dot patterns. The upper pattern is linear, predictable, and evenly spaced; while the lower one meanders, sometimes off track, has gaps, but returns occasionally to join with the first.
…What is this composition intended to mean ?
Interpretations will certainly vary, but think of the straight pattern as representing the Way of Tea itself, as a perfection, as an ideal, a straight-and -narrow to be aspired to. Then, the meandering steps would illustrate our imperfect lives, striving to follow the way: at times we approach, at times drift away, sometimes we do merge; and, happily, we never go too far astray before correcting. It’s a subtle drama happening beneath a plain sky of zen-like emptiness.
Hopefully, Mei’s tea guests will clue us in on their interpretations !
The teapot, as one of the craft’s most overstudied forms, has been taken into the abstract, zany, and even just plain weird, far too often ! . But Mei presents us now with a folksy, traditional expression, where “less is more”, that merges significant cultural themes (harmony, hospitality, spirituality) to recharge one of the great forms in pottery with fresh meaning. Having this teapot would so wonderfully fulfill anyone’s dream for a contemplative afternoon at tea.
In yet another bow to tradition, Mei intends to glaze her design in Bernard Leach’s translucent iron green Celadon, a legacy handed down to us in his seminal text “A Potter’s Book”. Bernard, Hamada, and Yanagi toured the United States in the 1950’s to promote folk pottery and the merge of eastern/western clay cultures.….. They seem to have left their mark !