A journey through the story of the Great British cuppa, from colonialism to modern novelty teapots.
From the Japanese tea ceremony to the British cuppa, tea is intimately associated with social life. Ceramic objects such as teapots, tea bowls, cups and mugs are all part of the pleasure of drinking tea.
Teapots could be metal or ceramic but the cups were best in ceramic as they kept the liquid hot but were comfortable to hold and drink from. In the 19th century under colonial rule the British established huge tea plantations in India and Ceylon, tea could be imported more cheaply, and it became the drink of the masses. Tea drinking was especially associated with women and the domestic setting and was seen as an alternative to alcoholic drinks such as gin or beer.
Teapots and tea sets with matching cups and saucers were part of everybody's domestic goods and were designed to appeal to the fashionable styles of successive periods. They continue to be popular items for wedding presents.
Novelty teapots also have a long history and teapots have always appealed to the collectors' market. From the 1920s studio potters rose to the challenge of making teapots that were both functional and visually satisfying. In recent decades, however, ceramic artists have increasingly used the teapot as a theme to explore ideas about art and craft.
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