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IN BRIEF

July 28, 1996|Cara Mio DiMassa

THE ECCENTRIC TEAPOT by Garth Clark (Abbeville Press: $29.95, 120 pp.). Tea is second only to water in worldwide popularity as our beverage of choice: We drink 50 billion servings of it a year. Unfortunately for many of us, our tea is not served in the imperial blue glazed pots used during the Tang dynasty. They were considered the perfect vessels for tea because they altered the tea's appearance to a stately jade green. Today, we must often settle for the tinny taste of small, leaky, stainless steel teapots and, horror of horrors, tea bags in plastic foam cups.

"The Eccentric Teapot" helps us to see beyond the mundane, as that leaky teapot is supplanted by objects of art which are, alternately, whimsical, elegant and exotic. Garth Clark, director of both the Ceramic Arts Foundation and a New York City pottery gallery, recounts in superb detail the history of tea, tea rituals and the unflappable tea pot. In the accompanying pictures, teapots become animals, people, vegetables and architectural wonders. We are shown trompes l'oeils, including a teapot masquerading as Oscar Wilde (one side a woman, the other a man) and a water spout that pours out tea. There are also rare antique pots, one-of-a-kind creations and mass-produced novelty teapots.

One of the most imaginative pots in the collection is Andrew Wood's "Self Portrait Teapot" (pictured), which depicts the artist's body as the building that houses his pottery. It seems such a simple transformation, to render everyday tea drinking into an art by the form of the pot. If only now we could do something about those plastic foam cups.

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