Cherishing the Chipped Spout

Teapots are mercurial objects. At least, they are when you first meet one. Beholding a teapot for the first time is an introduction to a spherical mystery. Very much like people, we form impressions of them based on what we observe. When shopping for antique teapots, there are certain manufacturing or artisanal details that provide a biography of the object. We glean clues from the glazing, shape, staining, design, maker’s mark, and underlying composition. I have learned to identify the very old and the very young as they sit there upon the shelf, awaiting a new home.


I have seen it all. Perfection, staining, a sloppy potter’s hand, soul jarring cracks, and most frequently, the chip at the end of the spout. When I first began collecting, the chipped spout would sometimes prevent my purchase. Over time, I encountered so many perfect teapots, that were marred by that one blemish, that I began to accept them.

It was the teapots of the 1940s that made me truly re-think the chip. I love the Hall line of teapots. Beautiful colors, heavy, and workhorse durable. This is why we see so many. They were built to withstand the extreme daily tea-drinking demands of a household. Their era of creation was also a time of “elegant economy.” While they may have been more affordable than their teapot ancestors, the teapots of the 30s and 40s were examples of durability, mass production, and responsibility.


It was from this era that my first Hall teapot purchase was made. Part of the Victorian line, this “Benjamin” in mint green was showcased on a wooden filigreed shelf at an autumn craft fair. For $15.00 it was a steal. Absolutely perfect condition, except for that chip on the spout. Of course, I could not resist this beautiful gem of teapot history. I took it home, and examined it closely. Suddenly, it was if we were sharing a conversation. I could see some evidence of the passage of time, but it was the chip that told the biggest tale. It spoke of family. Long days or difficult events, tempered by the miracle elixir of tea. I saw the women in the kitchen, pouring cup after cup after cup, over many years. Hectic days, a flurry of activity, and in haste, the spout comes in contact with something hard enough to create a chip.

You see….the chip is evidence of a well-loved teapot. One that was a soldier in the front lines of family. Day in and day out, it served, without fainting, always at the ready. The teapots with the chipped spouts are not the dainty show-horses that live a life of luxury in the glass cupboard, only called into duty on special occasions. No, the chipped spout is a badge of honor, a testament to reliability in adversity.


I know what you’re thinking – The chip may not be a result of daily duty, but rather, the clumsy treatment of antique dealers, or the middle folk transferring ownership. That can sometimes be the case. However, I have also learned to spy the chips that are older. They include staining and age. You can see a patina of time. Newer chips are glaring – the fresh chip is bright and sticks out like a sore thumb.

At the end of the day, the chipped spout speaks to you or it does not. The more I learn about teapots and their development over the centuries, I am amazed that any of the early ones still survive. They look delicate, but have an underlying strength that very much relates to the beverage they serve. Tea itself looks delicate, weak, but holds a strength we rely on to get us through each day. After all history has put them through, I will cherish them, and their chipped spouts.

The sights and scents of spring seduce the senses for but a short period of time. As each new cluster of blossoms take shape, a new set dies away. One of my absolute favorite fragrances of  spring-time splendor is the Korean Spice Viburnum  (Viburnum carlesii).


My first encounter with this overwhelmingly seductive blossom was back in my college days, walking through the labyrinth of paths that led to class. Spring had a remarkable way of lifting the spirits of the stress-filled college student consumed with papers, exams, and deadlines. Fortunately, landscaping was a priority at my University. No matter which path I took, there was a special batch of color and fragrance to welcome me, creating a beautiful, momentary amnesia that made me smile.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Korean Spice Viburnum was rather large on this campus, but by allowing the larger growth, it produced more blooms, filling the air with an exotically spicy scent. I actually passed by it for a couple of years before finally identifying the species. But I admit to snagging a couple of blossoms on my way to class to get my spring fix prior to being trapped inside the classroom.

Despite being long away from my alma mater, I still spot this variety in my spring travels, and am even lucky enough to have several outside of my office. As a woody-stemmed species, picking blossoms can be tricky, but with enough effort, and fingernails, you can easily fill a vase…or teapot… with these delightful spring ambassadors. As for their spring endurance, their sweet, but spicy, aroma can last for days indoors, and the proliferation of blooms on one large bush is rather sequential, providing a longer enjoyment over the spring season.

Of course, there is no better way to display these spring beauties than in a small teapot. With each blossom stem only being a couple of inches long, I opted for a small “bachelor teapot” from the early 19th century. A black basalt variety that was purchased in England, with the marking “Cyples” on the bottom, indicating a company that produced products in Staffordshire for a only a few decades. I adore the strength and beauty of black basalt or basaltes ware. Originally, it was advertised as “indestructible” since it is fashioned from ground stone and glass to provide a more durable product. My little beauty here has a couple of chips on the lid, which allows me to see the internal construction of a very fine black grain – not a black glaze over other material.


I will cover black basalt pottery in future posts as I have more than one teapot to share, and feel these unique items should be more appreciated. Besides, there is an intriguing connection between the black basalt popularity and archaeology of the time…stay tuned!

P.S. Behind the Scenes:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor those of you with cats….you can understand the challenge of snapping a few photos within their domain! I know it was curiosity only, but hope the scent of spring gave them something new to enjoy as well. Cheers to a ‘scentsational’ spring!


I Spy: TeaWares and AnTeaques

The collector’s creed must include a portion about field research. We can look at pictures in books or online until we are salivating all over the keyboard, but nothing compares to physical examination of the objects of our affections. Today, I am introducing a new prompt series to document the items I find during my anteaquing travels. The journey helps me learn many things: size, decoration, markings, pricing, etc. For the most part, the items I feature will be part of those I left behind – the items I did not purchase. The only reason for this designation is that those items I do purchase will be featured in a future post.


For our first foray in the wonderful world of tea collectibles, I walked through an antique mall in the central region of the country. The only reason I see the regional location as important is due to the pricing of items. Prices can vary greatly from region to region. Now, on our way!


This first adorable teapot is a lovely example of improvised repair. A Japanese lusterware teapot from the first half of the 20th century, marked on the bottom with “Japan.” As of yet, I do not own a proper Japanese lusterware teapot, and it is on my ‘to-buy’ list, but as lovely as this little affordable beauty may be, closer inspection will discover that the literal gem at the top is a repair. I will admit – a very cute repair, and if you only collect for color, or theme in the room, this repair is quite acceptable. If, however, you collect items that are in reasonably original condition, with very little damage, you would have to walk on by.


This next group was very tempting as they were full size Sadler teapots, not the miniature versions that we see more frequently in the states. Varieties seen here: Piccadilly, London/Guardsmen, Big Ben. The jury is still out on these, and if I go back and they are still there, I may grab a couple….at $10-$12 they’re a steal…but I have a low tolerance for cutesy. They are obviously current examples of touristware…manufactured in large quantities to appeal to the tourist, with little thought given to classic design. They are travel teapots, and probably not seen in the homes of most Britains. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Sadler teapots, but this is just too much pandering for my taste. If you want to get an idea of the number of these types of teapots out there, just do a quick search on Ebay. Again, they are in perfect condition, and at least half the price you see online, so, hmmmm, maybe I should go get them…but I would feel guilty. I would probably only buy these for resale at a later date. Good heavens…I’m a collector, not a purveyor of teawares! Then again, how does one fund a rather expensive collecting hobby? Decisions, decisions…



Dragonware from Japan: This set is quite stunning. If I had more room for full sets like this one, I might have been tempted. All I can say is that it is a brown glaze figural set from the 20th century, marked “Japan”. As you can see from the bottom, it is also made of red clay, or redware. Very nice for steeping temps. If you like dragons, this would be a great find!


Our last find for today’s post: a mid-century teapot made by the Hall company. What I learned from this teapot: these are a tad larger than I envisioned when seeing them for sale online. Also, considering the wear damage, I’m thinking this price was a little high. If the gilt had been perfect, the price would have been much higher, but the amount of wear is extreme in my book. Nevertheless, it still reminds me why Hall teapots are the bomb…totally love their durable quality and sleek designs! Plus, they made plenty to go around.

That’s it for my finds today…stay tuned for more “I Spy” segments as I shop shop shop, and learn, learn, learn!