Teapots were invented back in the Yuan Dynasty (in China). The design likely progressed gradually from ceramic kettles and wine pots made of metals. Prior to that, only cauldrons were used to boil tea which was then served in bowls.
By the Ming Dynasty, use of the teapot was widespread in China.
Early teapots were small in comparison to what we use today, as they were usually designed for a single tea drinker. Believe it or not, once the tea was brewed, they usually drank it straight from the teapot spout! If I'd done that as a child, my grandmother would have clipped my ear! Different strokes for different folks, indeed.
They might have actually been onto something, as single portions of tea are easier to control with regard to flavour and are easier to repeat consistently.
From the 17th century onward, tea was shipped from China to Europe, along with exotic spices and other luxuries. Porcelain teapots, often painted in the familiar blue and white we associate with many Chinese ceramics, were also shipped out.
Here's a fun fact! Because porcelain is completely vitrified, it can stand subjection to seawater without harm. Therefore, the teapots could be stowed below deck. The tea, however, had to be stowed above deck in order to remain dry.
At first, tea drinkers in Europe were of the upper class
At that time, porcelain couldn't be made in Europe. So tea and teapots were fairly expensive, limiting consumption to those who could readily afford it. It wasn't until 1708 that Ehrenfriend Walther von Tschirnaus figured out how to make porcelain and started the Meissen Factory (in Dresden) in 1710.
In the Americas, Boston was a centre for silver craftsmanship. We're sure you've heard of the Revere family, whose works of art included teapots.
Paul Revere's Famous Ride
Early English homes used tea cosies to keep their teapot hot after the tea had brewed. They work - as we still utilize them today! Knitters and crocheters in our family used to compete for the most intricate and whimsical tea cosy creations!
Many people enjoy collecting teapots
I know, because I'm one of them! In all my years of collecting (and I have quite a few teapots), I have never seen such intricate, whimsical teapots as produced by Ardmore Studio. These teapots would be quite suitable on the table at The Mad Hatter's Tea Party! In fact, we're proud to tell you that some of our lovely ceramics from The Ardmore Collection are on display at the shop at the prestigious Gardiner Museum in Toronto now through the end of March 2018.
At first glance, most people can't tell that this is a teapot! Look closely and you will see that it is. Can't you just see this lovely piece on the tea table in Alice in Wonderland? We sure can!
The Ardmore Collection
On Springvale Farm, located in the KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), a most astounding art studio is found. Ardmore Ceramics has been acknowledged by the acclaimed auction house - Christie's - as producers of "modern day collectibles". Styled in an exuberant, exotic (even, may we say, whimsical style), the ceramics produced by this remarkable atelier are superb examples of design and craftsmanship. Often inspired by wildlife, Ardmore Ceramics have been exhibited in leading galleries and collections around the world, including The Museum of Art & Design in New York and The Museum of Cultures in Basel (Switzerland). Ardmore's modern art style breaks ceramic conventions, using techniques resulting from years of experimentation with materials and processes. The vibrant colours and enormous attention to detail are simply superb.