I’ve talked about our friend Mr. Gan, who runs the local tea shop here in Hukou before. A few evenings ago Hui-Chen and I were in his shop once again, and this time I bought a very unusual teapot from him. Here is the story:
The teapot was made in Japan more than 20 years ago by a master craftsman that Mr. Gan knew personally. This teapot was made as an experiment to discover whether or not a pot could be successfully made using an interesting method of combining different colored clay materials together to get the resulting swirled look shown in the accompanying photographs. The answer of course is “yes” and that the master was successful. The interesting aspect is that the master only made one teapot like this, and only a handful of others that appear similar with the swirled pattern look but different in design. Why there aren’t many like this certainly is a mystery to me, since it looks so attractive. Mr. Gan held onto this teapot for 20 years without selling it, and he only agreed to sell it to me because (he says) I am one of the few people who can appreciate what it really is. Let’s take a look at this amazing piece!
This is the teapot! As I said, its Japanese and the design is totally Japanese, with the grip-type handle oriented 90 degrees from the spout. This teapot is absolutely beautiful when seen by eye and no photograph can do it justice!
The cover design seemingly violates the known criteria for a superior design, however the top fits so securely that when you cover the vent hole with your finger and blow into the spout while holding down the cover, you will discover that the teapot is nearly airtight. This is a normal criteria when choosing a teapot. The lid has a very small interior rim, but this cover is designed to fit inside the pot rim, not on top as with Chinese designs. When pouring, one puts their finger on the cover and holds the handle. This pot pours like a dream.
Also, see how wide mouthed this pot is? No spilling any tea while filling this pot!
Notice the bottom of the pot where you can clearly see how the materials were mixed. Mr. Gan says that only top quality clays were used, and he has some pieces of broken unsuccessful previous attempts (he keeps such pieces for material studies). I examined the broken pieces of this material and he is right – it is of the highest quality clay you can find in Japan for teapot construction.
The opposite side of the teapot is just as beautiful. I love how the spout and handles have contrasting swirls. This is a very beautiful piece of art, and it also happens to make very excellent oolong tea!
The small imperfections in the execution and finish only add to its value. This is a one-off piece, hand made by a master craftsman.
My only fear is that this beautiful pot will somehow get damaged. I don’t dare put it on any shelf or display as I have had things fall off shelves from earthquakes. I leave it in the safest place I can think of: right on the tea service where it is protected.
So, what do you think of my new teapot?