Mon, 08 Mar 2010 19:11:01By Alex Kuffner
Journal Staff Writer
One of the more than 70 teapots on exhibit: below, a teapot by Tony Wright.
NEWPORT — One is mounted on wheels. Another sits nestled inside a block of wood. And then there is one shaped, of all things, like an orangutan.
These are some of the one-of-a-kind ceramic teapots on display at the Newport Potters Guild’s gallery on Thames Street. The nonprofit arts group selected 41 teapots, tea cups and tea accessories from artists across the country for its juried exhibition Tea By the Sea, which opened March 3 and continues through April 6.
It’s the first time the Potters Guild has held the exhibition. Actually, it’s also one of the first shows for the organization, which is less than a year old.
The Potters Guild was formed last May by a loose-knit group of ceramics artists who knew each through their work. When a storefront in the heart of downtown opened up, they jumped at the chance to set up a gallery and studio.
“This has served as a venue to bring people together and create a community of artists in town,” says gallery manager Christine Bevilacqua.
The Guild supports itself by selling artwork made by its 15 members and other artists as well as by offering private tutorials and group classes for children and adults.
Bevilacqua says the show was organized because there’s always been a lot of interest among ceramics enthusiasts in teapots.
“For many people, if they’re going to collect a ceramic object, it’s going to be a teapot,” she says.
She tells a story from last summer when a couple walking past the gallery spotted a miniature chess set in the window that had pieces shaped like coffee and tea accessories. The kings were coffee pots. The queens were teapots.
They snapped a picture of the work by artist Nancy Robbins and sent it to a friend in California. It turned out he was an expert on teapots who had even written a book about them. He bought the set and Bevilacqua mailed it to him.
“It was an exquisite piece and he had to have it,” she says.
Already, collectors from as far away as England have called the gallery to inquire about the exhibition, which includes works by artists from Utah, Georgia, Texas and Ontario, Canada. There’s also work from one Rhode Islander — Christian Tonsgard, of East Providence. The pieces range in price from $50 for a teapot made by Guild artist-in-residence Ben Gaboury to $2,500 for work by Preston Saunders, a Massachusetts artist who made the teapot perched in the knob of wood.
The gallery was set to hold a reception Saturday night in which the three top works selected by the members of the Guild were to be announced. The first-place winner was Ron Mello, of Middleboro, Mass., who created the rolling teapot. Second place went to Julia Timm, of Minneapolis, who made a porcelain sugar bowl and creamer set. And third went to Greg Cochenet, of Hamden, Conn., who made a tea bowl.
Bevilacqua says they were chosen because they married form with function well.
“Teapots are particularly difficult to make,” she says. “They have to work seamlessly together so they function well.”