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It's time for teapots

A new exhibit in Dunedin shows the familiar vessel as both creative art form and functional crockery.

By PAMELA GRINER LEAVY
Published January 7, 2005


DUNEDIN - Compare a teapot to the human body with the little vessel's foot, belly and neck. Run your fingers over the handles, spouts and lids. All the elements have to work together to pour the perfect cup of hot brewed nectar.

Barbara Knutson, a potter from Fort White near Lake City, draws that analogy as she prepares to showcase her complex art form in "A Passion for Pottery II - Teapots," opening tonight at Clay and Paper in downtown Dunedin. The invitational show features teapots by 10 potters from across the United States, all who interpret the art form with individual personal expression. A Peter Rabbit nursery rhyme theme describes one piece of Knutson's work, featuring a mossy garden, ladder, fence and rabbit on top. Another pot pours in honor of one of Knutson's children, a soprano who sings opera.

"It has a puffed-out chest and sort of tips backward as if it were singing, expressing joy," Knutson said.

More than decorative, Knutson's teapots are functional, designed to be used and enjoyed. They range in price from $150 to $300.

Knutson also will share her skills on Saturday and Sunday in a two-day workshop at the Dunedin Fine Art Center. Rather than throwing clay on a wheel, Knutson prefers the technique known as handbuilding. She starts out with a flat slab of clay, gives it a surface decoration and then assembles its parts.

Knutson invites workshop participants, beginners or professionals, to come with an open mind and lots of enthusiasm. Most won't take home an intricate teapot. Depending on skill level, some will shape a simple vase or cup, others a more complex creation.

Knutson said the art is extremely tactile.

"To hold clay in your hand, you have to squeeze it," she said. "Once you squeeze it, it's very sensuous."

Clay and Paper hosted the first Passion for Pottery show last January. It was held in concert with the Power of Pottery exhibit at the Dunedin Fine Art Center, where the curator was Kevin Hluch of Frederick, Md., also a teapot artist. Hluch's work is featured at the new Clay and Paper show.

Author of the book The Art of Contemporary Pottery , Hluch selected all the artists in the Dunedin center show, and also favors functional art.

"It's always fun to see new work coming on line, and trying to promote utilitarian pottery as an accessible art form," he said.

Hluch favors porcelain and also prefers to handbuild instead of throwing on a wheel. He continues to teach art at the college and university level.

"I realized at first it would take years of a lot of practice to express myself transparently on the wheel," Hluch said. "The wonderful thing about ceramics in general is there's so much there anyone can explore, any number of factors of the media and be perfectly satisfied and challenged through the years. I'm still challenged every time I step into the studio."

The teapot show features four of Hluch's creations. Using his collection of 200 Oriental stamps, he presses surface decorations on his handbuilt clay and fires them in a 2,225-degree oven.

Priced at $185 each, the delicate pots stand relatively small and feature a medallion-type decor.

Hluch's pots are all functional, as he usually doesn't create anything that can't be used. His home includes a hutch full of teacups and mugs, handmade by other potters instead of commercially manufactured. Hluch hopes visitors to Clay and Paper come away appreciating the benefits of drinking tea brewed in a handcrafted pot.

"There's an art to drinking tea and it's a way of integrating that art into one's life everyday, inexpensively, too, generally speaking," he said. "There's something important about the integration of arts into everyday life where's there's no separation to having that aesthetic experience and living every moment of your day."

Some teapots in the "A Passion for Pottery II - Teapots" show are functional, others are miniature, said Barbara Melby-Burhans of Clay and Paper.

"These are not just teapots, they can be sculptural in form," said Melby-Burhans. "They are very exclusive of these people's personalities. They put a lot into them."

The show features the work of her husband Ira Burhans. "His work is more earthy, as his inspiration is kind of like the ocean where the tide goes out," she said.

IF YOU GO

What: "A Passion for Potter II - Teapots, Clay and Paper," 350 Main St., downtown Dunedin.

When: Through Feb. 27. Opening reception tonight 7 to 9. Gallery hours are daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call 736-0934.

Activities: Two-day, handbuilding clay workshop, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dunedin Fine Art Center. Cost is $125 for noncenter members and $100 for members. There is an additional $25 materials fee.

[Last modified January 7, 2005, 01:29:20]


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