Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Burn Victim

A cold winter, an extended vacation... but I'm back now.
It's lovely to return to The Tea Gallery when I've been away for any length of time. It's even nicer to see patrons returning from holiday adventures to share a cup of tea. Kai dropped by on a very busy Friday but I unglued myself from the computer, eager to see what he had brought with him. He unwrapped a small Yixing teapot and lightly said, "Tell me what you think."

The color was beautiful. The right shade of "purple" that can add more value to a teapot. Knowing Kai, it was at least a hundred years old and probably more. It was small and fit easily in my hand. The lid was nearly the same width as the pot, unusual to see such a large opening.
The characters inscribed on the lid's handle said Han (Dynasty) Tile because it was shaped after the style of the roof tiles from that period. A gentle curve that left a sliver of space between lid and handle and not much to grip. The clay felt smooth beneath my fingers until I came across a little bump. What's this? A blemish on an otherwise lustrous surface. "How did this bump get here?"
"Look inside", said Kai, "You'll get your answer..."
I gasped when I saw the blistered interior and Kai laughed at my surprise. What could have caused the surface of the clay to form those bubbles? I pressed on the raised welts as if I could smooth them out, it was hardened of course. Winnie had a similar response when I passed the pot to her. Kai finally explained, "Sometimes this happens to teapots that have been fired in a Dragon Kiln. If the heat is improperly controlled, especially in the hottest part of the kiln, the clay gets damaged in this way." It looked like a burn victim because it was in a way.

I wondered if it affected the flavor of tea in any way. Kai didn't know because the pot didn't pour very well so he had never used it for tea. "But it's a nice teapot and it still has something to teach", he said. I could agree with that.
Kai couldn't tell me much about the stamp on the bottom. He guessed it was the name of a teashop that had commissioned the production of this teapot.

After I had finished taking photos, Kai wrapped up his pot and had one last cup of tea before he ventured back into the cold and his work. I stared at the photos on my computer, admiring the color of Kai's teapot, grateful for the lesson and happy to be back at The Tea Gallery.