College of Art and Craft highlights top creations in exhibit

Creating a functional teapot is a rite of passage for Oregon College of Art and Craft metalsmithing students. The college will celebrate the required class’ 20th anniversary with “OCAC Teapots: A 20-year Retrospective.”

This month-long exhibition brings together more than 35 selected teapots that exemplify the remarkable variety of works produced through this annual requirement by the Metals Department’s third-year students and includes traditional styles and imaginative representations. An opening reception will be held at OCAC’s Hoffman Gallery today (Thursday) from 4 to 6 p.m.

“The skill, discipline and confidence that students gain through the teapot assignment is invaluable to them as they progress through their undergraduate course of study, and the objects that they produce expand our perceptions of what a functional object should look like,” said Denise Mullen, OCAC president. “From a twisted torso to a Viking helmet to a panda eating bamboo, these teapots astound us.”

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to display so many diverse approaches to an age-old challenge,” said Christine Clark, head of the Metals Department. “Each student who has advanced to this course has taken the teapot project with the utmost seriousness.

“When they are finished, they feel as if they can handle any metalsmithing challenge. It’s wonderful to see so many teapots from this class come together in one strong exhibition.”

OCAC’s third-year teapot class provides an essential step in developing the vocabulary of a metalsmith. By focusing on traditions of the craft dating back to ancient history that are still practiced today — such as raising and forming, large-scale soldering and fitting processes — students design and create a handmade and fully functional teapot. Through research, analysis and creative problem solving, students make decisions about construction methods and design, choose materials for handles and study historical and contemporary examples of teapots and other hollowware, Clark said.

By deepening their understanding of the creation of utilitarian objects — how to balance design and function — this intensive studio experience prepares OCAC students for careers as practicing studio artists, she added.

Students begin with flat sheets of metal, primarily sterling silver, and through traditional metalsmithing techniques, “raise” the metal into three-dimensional forms. Students are ready to pour tea in 15 weeks.

Each year, the finished teapots are presented at the OCAC Tea Party, which takes place the Friday of graduation weekend in May. Attracting more than 100 guests who drink tea poured by the students from their teapots, the Tea Party provides an opportunity to hear about the students’ sources of inspiration, their processes and selection of materials and methods.

At the 2012 Tea Party, OCAC launched the new campus tea, “OCAC Crafted Tea,” produced in collaboration with Steven Smith Teamaker. The blend was created by Clark.

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